Tips to help you survive finals week without burning out
As classes come to an end and final exams begin, this time of year can feel wearing and stressful. Here is a helpful guide with tips and tricks to get you through finals week.
Success can become easier with small changes to individual study habits. While studying will look different from person to person, here are a few simple strategies to incorporate into your routine.
Create a study guide
If you are taking a final exam, chances are it will either be cumulative or include a substantial amount of information. To avoid getting overwhelmed, organize your notes into a study guide. Even if a professor provides you with a study guide, look over it and then create your own. Not only will rewriting notes reinforce the information, but it will allow for a more organized and personalized way of studying.
Make use of office hours
Because they are available all semester, it’s easy to forget about the benefits of using office hours. But one of the best ways to ensure you are prepared for a final is to reach out to the person who wrote the final. If professors and teaching assistants have office hours during finals, they can answer questions or give your more clarification about what to expect for an exam.
Final exam preparation can feel like a long stretch of time, and it’s common to want to take full advantage of that time. However, maintaining focus and effective studying over a long period of time is bound to cause mental and physical strain if you do not pace yourself. By planning ahead when and what you will study, you will be less likely to feel fatigued and burned out. (Also, check out these resources that can help when you do feel burned out.)
While feeling burned out in college is a universal experience for students, especially when cramming for final exams, there are various ways to help ease the pressure.
Allow yourself to take breaks
A large part of burnout is feeling the need to keep going and going, even if doing so is not feasible. Creating a simple study schedule using platforms such as Evernote or Notion can help you section off times when you need to study and when you can take breaks. Look through Canvas and first take note of the order of your final exams. Then, you can accordingly plan when to start studying for each exam and for how long each day. For example, if you need to study for three hours in one day for an exam, section off 50 minutes for studying and then 10 minutes for a break.
Darya Tavazoei, a senior studying microbiology, said her experience with taking finals exams has made her prioritize taking self-care breaks.
“I take a moment to do a little bit of self-care, whether that is in the form of a cup of tea or taking an extra step of mindfulness to alleviate the stress that comes with those prolonged periods of studying,” Tavazoei said. “Even just taking a break to take some time to be with friends, even if it’s only for a short amount of time, lets my body and brain to focus on something else.”
Don’t compare your studying to others’
Studying with friends, roommates, and others can be a great way to stay motivated during exams. However, it’s important to not compare yourself and your study habits when studying with other people. Even if your friends are taking similar exams or taking a final on the same day as you, do not let how “fast” they study or how “focused” they seem affect your own studying.
Even if you enjoy being around other people when studying, create a good study playlist and put headphones in to block out any unnecessary conversations that could affect the way you study. You also could go with friends to the quiet floors in the library because it can still let you keep each other accountable in getting work done, but you won’t have to hear about how your friends are studying.
Turn off your phone
Unfortunately, phones and social media make comparing yourself and getting distracted by what other people are doing all the more difficult. While it’s easy to go on your phone when you need a break from doing work, Laurie Fritsch, an assistant director of Hokie Wellness, has developed a digital well-being course that helps people be more intentional when using technology —something that is especially important when it comes to finals and burnout.
If you get distracted by your phone often, Fritsch recommends changing your environment. By going to a coffee shop or a new location, you have more success putting your phone in your bag and leaving it there.
Even having your phone face down on a table can cause cognitive drain because you must make an unconscious choice to ignore it. That takes away focus from your work. Fritsch also recommends using a focus mode application on your laptop or phone that prohibits notifications from showing.
Taking breaks are crucial in avoiding burnout. But if your breaks involve going on your phone to feel distracted, it may be doing more harm than good. Fritsch recommends choosing activities that don’t involve your phone, such as going for a short walk or talking with friends.
And even if you do enjoy going on your phone as a way to relax, set your phone breaks for a short period of time so you don’t stay on the same app for hours.
“I always tell people to look at your daily average screen time and then look at your top five app uses,” Fritsch said. “Ask yourself what is the intention behind my use of that app? If it’s not rewarding and more just a time-waster, then that can help you decide what apps to actually use.”
Written by Cyna Mirzai, a senior and an intern for Virginia Tech Communications and Marketing