How to study for finals while caring for yourself: Lessons from the Center for Student Success

As finals loom, many students start to become overwhelmed with last minute assignments and anxiety. It can be hard for students to find time to study for finals or to find the courage to even begin the studying process. To give students some resources and advice, Chimes reached out to Caitlin Finch, peer support coordinator and academic counselor for the Center for Student Success.

Chimes: What are some of the biggest worries and struggles students come to you with during final season? 

Finch: Many students say they feel overwhelmed as the semester ends. It’s common to feel stuck, unable to move forward with academic projects or self-care.

Chimes: Going off that question, how do you respond to these concerns?

Finch: Make. A. Plan. And try to stick to it. Once assignments are written down and prioritized, students often share that they are motivated to continue making their way through other tasks on the list. 

Chimes: When should students start preparing for finals? What are small ways students can prepare if they do not have a lot of time in the last week or so of classes?

Finch: The sooner the better. Research has shown that consistent, short, focused amounts of studying are powerful in retaining information. Use the time between your classes to study instead of going back to your residence hall.

Research has shown that consistent, short, focused amounts of studying are powerful in retaining information”

Chimes: Cramming for finals is something many students resort to, and they feel like there is no other way to study. What advice can you give to help students avoid cramming?

Finch: Try using the pomodoro technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes of focused study, take a five-minute break (physically get up and move around, grab a snack, a glass of water), set your timer again for 25 minutes of focused study. Try this for three reps — you’ll surprise yourself with how much you’ve gotten done!

Chimes: When it comes to studying a semester worth of material, what are some tactics you give to students to help them break down the studying process?

Finch: Try prioritizing content. Here are helpful questions to consider:

  • What is my exam schedule?
  • Which exam comes first?
  • What content do I need to spend the most time reviewing?
  • What project or task is going to take me the longest?
  • What project and/or assignment might I be able to finish between classes?

Chimes: What are some tips you have for students on how to prepare for a final on the day of? How should students take care of themselves in preparation?

Finch: Try to visualize the day ahead of time. Here are some things to consider:

  • Write down the time and location of your final exam
  • Plan your sleep schedule (don’t give up too much sleep!)
  • Eat a meal prior to taking the exam
  • Pack your “bag” the night before so that you have final assignments ready to take with you for the exam

Chimes: Are there any other ways the CSS helps students prepare for finals that you like to share?

Finch: Feel free to look at the resources on our website:

https://calvin.edu/offices-services/center-for-student-success/support/study-assistance/

If any student would like to speak with an academic counselor in the Center for Student Success about finals or exam support, they are welcome to stop in and schedule an appointment. 

Chimes: Are there any other resources you’d recommend for students as finals begin?

Finch: Be aware of the schedule. The last day of class is Thursday, April 21, but students will attend Friday classes. Exams begin the next day, Friday, April 22 at 6:30 PM.