Junior Claire Waidelich stumbles out of bed around 6:30 a.m. after pressing the snooze button about three times. She quickly scrambles to gather her books once she remembers that she has a computer science final at 8 a.m. She pours a large cup of coffee and does not even bother to take a shower like she usually does before classes. “I don’t take care of myself during finals,” Waidelich said as she shook her head. “I don’t even change out of my pajamas until the last minute.”
On the last week of each semester, EMU students cram loads of information to prepare themselves for back-to-back finals. Some students are faced with the task of retaining all the information they learned throughout the semester, while others are assigned several essays and/or projects. With the pressure of these exams and projects weighing on their final grades, students become stressed. Time management and long-term planning can help combat this stress.
Students face the demand to succeed academically due to factors like graduate school application requirements and family expectations. Anxiety arising from negative stress can make it difficult students to sleep, which decreases their alertness and ability to remember information. Senior Alaina Bingler shared how exam stress prevents her from getting a sufficient amount of sleep. “Most of the night I am crying till I sleep and I usually am too anxious to sleep,” Bingler said, “which is really bad for studying.”
Time management is vital in avoiding pulling all-nighters and having to cram last minute. Waidelich described how she prepares herself for finals. “I email my professors and go into office hours a couple days before the tests to get clarity because I just have all these crazy notes that look like garbled crap,” said Waidelich. She starts preparing herself for finals week before the semester even starts by scheduling her classes as close together as possible. “I know if I have gaps between my classes, I will just spend it watching videos on YouTube. I’d rather have the entire afternoon free so I will have time to study when exams approach,” said Waidelich.
Junior Anika Thomas prepares early by jotting down the large assignments scheduled on her syllabi on a whiteboard calendar in her dorm. She writes each assignment on the day it is due so it will be out of the way once she has to study for exams. “All my small assignments will just be distractions when I’m trying to study for large exams, so I just make sure I have a plan to get those out of the way ahead of time,” Thomas said. On the first week, she starts working on the large projects due on the last week of the semester.
While scheduling study time, students will also have to set time to sleep because being sleep deprived will make staying alert difficult. “When I don’t get any sleep, I end up staring at my notes instead of actually studying them,” said Bingler. Making a schedule at the beginning that includes a certain amount of time for each course can help. Students must balance the workload of each class. It helps to focus on one class at a time so the information does not clash.
Caffeine can help with lack of focus. “I just keep drinking coffee and pray that I won’t fall apart,” Thomas said, laughing. “I usually drink one to two cups of coffee each day, but during finals week I have up to four a day.” The anxiety that comes from stress to do well can lead to distress once the students realize they are unable to concentrate on their work.
Sometimes the way a student chooses to study amplifies their stress. “One time, I read the whole textbook section for my exam and tried to memorize it, but it was like I hadn’t read anything once I got to the exam,” Waidelich said. Now, Waidelich starts studying the section when she is learning it in class. This makes it easier for her to revise her notes and memorize important facts instead of cramming a couple days before the final.
Many students are faced with stress because they do not have techniques to effectively prepare for finals. They may try to memorize too much information at once, which only increases anxiety and ends in poor test results. Once students get into the habit of creating study schedules at the beginning of semester for each course, they will be better prepared for the last week of exams. “I have already created a sleep schedule as well as decided when I will study for each class. I can only hope that I will stick to this schedule during that stressful time,” Waidelich said.