Students have all safely returned to campus and are getting back to the grind, ready to finish out the last few weeks of the fall 2012 semester with a bang. Campus may be a little colder and whiter than when we all headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday, but the routine is pretty much the same. Hopefully you all had the opportunity to enjoy some relaxation, lots of good food, and some holiday shopping with your students while they were back home with you over break. I know that at least for me, break was a great way to recharge and brace myself for the end of the semester.
Even though 3 weeks may seem like a pretty significant amount of time, when it comes to final exams and end-of-semester papers and projects, it goes by in a flash. This semester’s final exam period will be Monday, December 17 through Friday, December 21. Even though most students aren’t quite back to full mental capacity and are still partially on break, now is the time to start thinking about how to prepare for finals. By getting a jump start, students will be able to reduce the stress and often overwhelming amount of work that comes with finals week. Preparation and organization are key to finishing any semester strong, so here are a few strategies that I’ve learned through my four years at Michigan Tech.
Get organized: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s shocking how quickly things can get out of hand when the workload increases and deadlines are coming up quickly. Many students keep a planner with all of their assignments and exams written down in one convenient location, and it’s important to keep this up-to-date. Another great way to stay organized is keep to-do lists for each week and to set goals for what you’d like to get accomplished. This helps with motivation because nothings feels better than crossing something off of the list and moving on to the next task! Finally, using Google Calendar and Google Drive are super useful for keeping everything straight when times are hectic. Google Calendar allows students to put all of their classes, exams, meetings, and deadlines on one calendar so that they can see an overview of what they need to do and when they need to do it. Google Drive provides an organized way to keep assignments in one spot so things don’t get lost or buried in the pile of papers on a desk.
Get some extra help: This is a huge one that many students overlook. When studying for finals, remind your students that they are not alone. Learning centers, professors, and teaching assistants are all there to answer any questions and clarify any unclear concepts. Michigan Tech has a learning center for almost any subject that you can think of, including writing, math, biology, engineering, physics, and chemistry just to name a few! Each learning center is staffed by students who have been successful in the courses associated with the center. Most centers offer walk-in appointments or weekly sessions, depending on the level of support a student needs. Professors and teaching assistants have office hours that students can visit if they have a specific question about a lecture topic or assignment. This is time that is set aside specifically for students and any questions that they may have. Not only is this a great way to get inside information directly from the instructor, but it allows students to develop a connection with their professors. Another way to get a little extra assistance is to form study groups with other students in the same course. Working as a group gives students a wider knowledge base and different perspectives on how to solve a problem or answer a question. Also, everyone has different learning styles and unique approaches to studying, so working with others can introduce students to strategies and techniques that they haven’t tried before.
Stay healthy: When things get busy, it’s often easy to sacrifice sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition to stay on top of things. However, it’s important for students to keep in mind that the last thing they need during finals is be sick. Treat school like a 9 to 5 job, so when night comes there’s some time to recharge and get some rest. Of course there will be a need to study and do some work at night, but if students get the majority of assignments out of the way during the day, things will seem much more manageable. Also, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is very important and helps to ensure that students are getting the rest that they need to get everything done! Many students feel that they are too busy to fit exercise into their crazy schedules during finals. However, exercise doesn’t have to mean hours in the gym. A brief jog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or doing some push-ups and crunches in their room is much better than nothing at all. A healthy body means a healthy mind, which is something that every student needs. Finally, remind your student to make smart choices in the dining halls and to avoid using food as a way to deal with the stress. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables gives busy students the energy they need to keep up with their schedules. Avoid sugary and fried foods that will only slow the body down and go for nutritious and healthy options instead!
Keep calm and carry on: Remember not to freak out! Many students think they need to spend every waking moment studying and doing homework, and while it is important to dedicate time and put forth effort when it comes to their studies, students must also take time to unwind. Studying and working nonstop is a recipe for getting burned out. It’s important to set aside some time to chat with friends, read for leisure, watch a little TV, or do a bit of web surfing to relax and recharge. Studying is important, but research has shown that 2-3 hours is the maximum amount of uninterrupted time that someone can study something and still absorb information. Students should take brief study breaks to get the most out of study sessions.
These are just a few tips that I’ve found helpful during finals and I hope your student will find them useful as well! One of the most important things that you can do as parents is to just be supportive. Take the frantic phone calls in stride, offer words of encouragement, and be the shoulder that your student can lean on when things get busy. As a survivor of six finals weeks, I can attest that your students will get through this. Even after all of the “I just know I failed!” and “I can’t do this!” calls, they’ll most likely do much better than they expected and be ready to take on another semester and conquer new challenges.
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Until next week,