Finals preparation: ways to manage your stress, sanity during the end of the semester

May 02, 2017

Hannah Harvey

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     In space, black holes have a gravitational pull so intense that nothing can escape it. Radiation, stars, particles – you name it – are swallowed up by the phenomenon.

     Perhaps for many students, finals week feels like a black hole, sucking up every effort they put into maintaining their GPA for their classes.

     UCCS dedicates one week, May 8-12, for finals at the end of every spring semester.

     But for many students, finals extend for more than just this one week.

     The preparation, studying, caffeine consumption, stress-induced notecard-making and collaboration (if it’s a group effort) can consume more than the allotted test week.

     And it is certainly easy to be consumed by all of the work.

     If you’re like me, and you admittedly have allowed your group projects, essays and exams creep up on you, these techniques and tips might help you, and your precious grades, from being swallowed by the black hole of finals.

Prepare Ahead of Time

     This is an obvious piece of advice, but it is one we all probably intend on following through on when we first look at the syllabus.

     Other obligations, like jobs, internships, other classes and those last three episodes of “Game of Thrones” that were just more important than making an outline for your essay, get in the way.

     But preparing ahead saves you time and stress that you could put toward other assignments.

     The firsts step in this process is prioritizing what tasks need your immediate attention. Put more work into getting an assignment with an earlier deadline first, and focus on the later projects at a different date after you’ve taken care of your earlier assignment.

     Don’t use assignments as an excuse for not working on your projects simultaneously though; if you have a big group project, essay or exam, study in increments a couple weeks (or more) before the big day.

     If you have the time, get that essay or project done early so you can focus on the exam a night or two before exam day rolls around; that way you know you’ve taken care of what you need to.

     Organizing your notes, color-coding topics you don’t understand, making flashcards and going back through the book are obvious ways we’re taught to prepare early, but these methods really do make a difference.

Don’t Cram

     Along the same lines as preparing ahead, don’t wait until the last minute to begin studying, writing or rehearsing for finals. Save that Redbull for your early morning exam when you really do need wings.

     According to a blog post by the State University of New York (SUNY), studying in 20-50 minute increments with small breaks in between is more beneficial than staying up and continuously trying to remember an entire semester’s worth of information in a night.

     Spacing repetition, as cited in a Work-Learning Research, Inc. study, are beneficial as repetition helps students solidify information and other concepts they have trouble with.

     Studying information repeatedly over a longer amount of time helps you remember those mathematical formulas or psychological concepts.

     But since we don’t have much time left until finals, study at least a week in advance, and try spacing your retention efforts out each day of the week before your exam.

Don’t Lose Sleep

     On the topic of cramming, this next piece of advice comes naturally in this list: don’t lose sleep.

     Losing sleep, generally speaking, is detrimental to your health. If you remember Intro to Psychology, you might recall learning that a lack of adequate REM sleep, which occurs in intervals throughout the night, helps you form and retain new memories.

     If you pull an all-nighter before your exam, not only are you hindering the amygdala, the memory center in your brain, but you’ll impair your reasoning skills for at least four days after, according to St. Lawrence University associate psychology professor Pamela Thacher’s 2007 study on how all-nighters contribute to lower grades.

     You might cost yourself an A if you decide to lose sleep the night before, so don’t be a hero, and get some shut eye.

Don’t Spend All Your Time in the Library

     Spending hours going through notes and flashcards in one place can be tiring.

     When studying for finals, it’s important to change up your space every now and then.

     Personally, I can’t spend hours and hours in the library repeatedly going over my notes. According to SUNY, moving rooms to study can help you retain more information.

     This is because your brain associates what you’re studying with your surroundings, said SUNY.

     In Colorado Springs, there are a lot of beautiful, quiet places to go. My favorites are Switchback Coffee Roasters, located off of South Institute Street downtown, and Loyal Coffee, just off of South Nevada.

Eat and Exercise the Right Way

     And no, reaching out to the Taco Bell employee in the drive through with both hands to get your quesadilla, three tacos and quesarito doesn’t count.

     Eating a healthy breakfast is key on exam day; according to SUNY, eating a high-carb and fiber breakfast fills you up and helps you focus on the day’s tasks.

     Food high in antioxidants and superfoods, like kale (unfortunately), should be incorporated in a balanced diet the week before your exams. Fruits and vegetables help your performance increase, so reach for those instead of eggs, cheese and cream.

Use Your Resources

     UCCS provides multiple resources to help you get focused and de-stress during finals.

     The Writing Center will hold activities and resource workshops for your writing during dead week on May 1-5. Finals Survival Coffee will be held outside Berger Hall at 8 a.m. on May 8 this week.

     Every semester, the library hosts Pause for Paws, where students get to pet dogs in the 2nd floor apse May 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 4 from 2:45-4:45 p.m. and May 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

     The library will also host PJs and Pancakes on May 3 from 7-8:30 p.m. Finally, on May 8 Café 65 will host Almost Summer-Late Night Breakfast from 9:30- 11:30 p.m.

     For more information on events during finals week, visit the Student Events Calendar page at