Finals can be a scary time. There are a lot of assignments due at once, all of which are really important. Everyone is desperately trying to bump their grades up, and it is cold and windy outside. However, it does not need to be so terrible! Once you figure out the approach that works for you, finals become a lot easier to manage. Below, I will share what I do to keep afloat during that busy time.
1. I make sure I finish all of my non-exam assignments before reading days
I define non-exam assignments as papers, homework, and other little things that are not exams. Most of these are due before reading days anyways, so this is not too ambitious, but I like to make sure that the only things I need to focus on during finals are my exams.
2. I have a plan for studying before reading days based on the strategies that worked for me during midterms for the class
By this time in the semester, I know what works for me for each class. For example, I know that for my statistics exam I need to go over lecture slides, in-class exercises, homework assignments, past exams, go to office hours, and make a cheat sheet. Taking stock of what needs to be done for each exam, giving it a time estimate, and adding a buffer on top of that are important to building a schedule.
3. I divide my days into chunks
I keep a regimented structure during finals and this ensures that I am sleeping and eating well and seeing friends. I typically wake up at 8, study from 9-12, go on a walk and eat lunch with a friend from 12-2, study from 2-5, go to the gym and eat dinner with a friend from 5-7, and study from 7-10. I fall asleep at around 11:30, and the eight and a half hours of sleep a night, quality time with friends, good meals, and physical exercise keep me happy.
4. I take breaks and keep tabs on my energy levels
I think there is zero point in forcing yourself to study when you are exhausted or have no energy to be doing so. When I try to study when I am cranky or tired or needing rest, I end up accomplishing nothing and feeling bad for it. Instead, I recognize that I am feeling a little low, take the day off to spend time outdoors or with friends, and recharge for the remainder of my studying. The main difference between this and sheer procrastination is intentionality, the type of activity I do to recharge, and the intention to double down later.
5. I find calm study spaces
Finding a spot to study outside of your room can be a challenge during finals. Popular study spots, like Huntsman Hall and Van Pelt Library, fill up really fast and it can feel like a competition to snag a good spot. I typically use the more popular locations as a study spot for my morning session and then go to less busy places, like the Penn Museum library, Perry World House, or the lounges in dormitories to study later in the day. Being separated from frantic cramming keeps me calm and enables me to focus on my own studying, as opposed to where my classmates are at in the content.
These are the main strategies I use to take care of myself during exams. My routines give me comfort at a time when it is so easy to let work engulf you and give in to the panic in the air. Everyone is different, though, and I hope my approach helps you figure out what works for you!