Your Ultimate Finals Survival Guide To Save Your Sanity

With yet another semester drawing to a close, I’m willing to do almost anything to get my work done, but keep my sanity. So I’ve worked up a guide to how I get through every finals season:

Manage Your Time

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One of the first things I always do is take about half an hour to sketch out my finals weeks and get organized. I start with a two week calendar which has paper deadlines, exams schedules, study groups, and even the last date professors will read drafts.

From there, I like to list underneath my calendar what I need to accomplish for each final project.  For example, if I have a 20 page paper due, I ask myself: Have I done all my research? Have I outlined it? How can I break this up into smaller, more manageable chunks?

Once you have all your smaller tasks, plug them into your calendar, day-by-day, with what you want to accomplish each day! If you have an exam and a 10 pager coming up on the same day, schedule your mornings for writing and your afternoons for studying.

Protip! Make sure to set manageable goals for yourself: If you tell yourself to write three pages every time you sit down to work on your paper, you’ll basically be done in three sittings!

Protip for papers! Almost all professors will read drafts! Take advantage of this. It’s your chance to throw your ideas together and get feedback on how to refine them. Plus, most professors tend to be more lenient on grading if they’ve worked with you on your papers.

MAJOR PROTIP: I love, love, love scheduling but don’t feel you have to do exactly what the schedule says. Be flexible. If you’re more inspired to work on your problem set than studying for your biology exam even though you don’t have it scheduled for a few days: do your problem set. Think of your schedule as guidelines rather than constraints!

Make Sure You Eat

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If you, like me, are already out of Thanksgiving leftovers, try thinking ahead to easy, bulk meals you can make so you can make one dish, and then focus the rest of your energy on your work.

For Dinner: I’m a huge fan of my crockpot, so when the weather gets cold, I’ll whip up a nice roast beef that’s quick, easy, and feeds me for at least a few days.

For Lunch: Chances are I’ve probably skipped lunch, but during finals, I try to make sure to eat three times a day. When I grocery shop for my roast beef, I might grab a rotisserie chicken and either make some chicken salad for munching with crackers or, if I’m feeling lazy, I might throw together some chicken with whatever veggies, fruits and nuts I’ve got around the apartment for a salad. Cheers!

For Breakfast: I can’t start my day without feeding my body and my soul with a good nutritious breakfast. Try Greek yogurt with granola and some fresh fruit for a sweet start to your day!

Snacks: Try to keep your snacks nutritious to keep your energy up! If I’m hungry between breakfast and lunch, my go-to is a Granny Smith apple with peanut butter (maybe a few dark chocolate chips to spice things up.)

My favorite late afternoon snack for when I’m exhausted from studying and not yet ready to reheat dinner is stove top popcorn! You can control how much grease, butter and salt goes into your favorite snack, with the added bonus of the smell reminding me of spending afternoons watching movies with my mom.

Make Delicious Coffee

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I’m not entirely sure where my coffee habit comes from, but I do know that my one indulgence during finals is my daily hazelnut latte.

If I’m not leaving the apartment due to rain (…or laziness), I like to forgo my Keurig for my French Press. Exchange your white sugar for brown (FYI: Domino makes pourable brown sugar!), pour in some hazelnut creamer, and add just a dash of cinnamon, and you’ve got yourself a savory, warm cup of coffee that does the trick on dreary day of reading.

Go to Sleep

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I know the all-nighters seem like the thing to do (all the cool kids are doing it!) but never in four years of undergrad (and now a semester of grad school) did I have to stay up all night to get everything done. (Mostly because I just don’t think I can stay up all night.) You’ll have more energy if you just give whatever you’re working on a break and pick it up with a fresh pair of eyes in the morning.

But at the end of the day, you have to do what works for you. So if you don’t get things done until you feel the pressure of the next day’s deadline pressing upon you…well, rock on, Night Owls.

Have a Bomb Study/Study Break Playlist!

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And last but not least, make sure you’ve got the proper tunes! When I’ve been at my books for 3+ hours, this playlist is just what I need! I can dance to Boyz II Men, sing my heart out to Alicia Keys and fangirl over Usher to get my blood pumping and my mind ready for round 2!

Ravynn Stringfield
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Ravynn Stringfield

Ravynn is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where her collegiate love of French and Comparative Literature led her to pursue a doctorate in American Studies at William and Mary. (Yeah, still puzzling that one out.) She loves writing, reading, making art and French press coffee, not necessarily in that order. She can typically be found giving dissertation length talks about Lois Lane to her dog, Genghis Khan
Ravynn Stringfield
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