study materials on wood table

10 Tips for Surviving Finals Week

Written by Evalyn Homoelle

You are coming to the close of your semester. After spending the semester writing papers and reading countless passages, you are days away from a long break. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to survive a week of intense studying, writing, and exams. But with these 10 tips, you’ll emerge as victorious as Ethan Hunt and James Bond. 

1. Don’t Procrastinate on Final Assignments

The week before finals is lovingly referred to as “Hell Week” by Hillsdale students, because that’s when all the final essays, projects, and assignments are due. As a freshman, I was terrified of juggling those final essays and assignments while studying for finals worth up to 40 percent of my grade! Save yourself the stress by working on those assignments before Hell Week. Your professor assigned that six-page essay back in two months ago for a reason. Maybe you should finish your research, start an outline or rough draft, and catch up on your readings a few weeks before finals so you can focus on exam prep.

2. Prioritize Sleep

Yes, I know this is cliche. A healthy amount of sleep seems impossible when you could study for that exam for two more hours, but if it’s too late, you would be better off sleeping and getting up earlier in the morning to study. You will feel much more refreshed, and you’ll retain the information better than your sleepy self would have. As my chemistry professor advised my fellow freshmen and I, the latest we should stay up to study is 2 a.m. After that, call it a night. 

3. Eat Well

Go to Saga or get Grab N’ Go. Hit up Kroger for some study snacks, or order pizza for you and your roommate. Balance brain food like fruits, vegetables, and proteins with your favorite treats. (Dark chocolate, is that you?) Your brain can’t function if you don’t feed your body. You’ll thank yourself for eating breakfast when your stomach isn’t noticeably growling during your 8 a.m. Heritage exam.

4. Exercise

Exercise is a stress-reliever and floods your body with positive chemicals, like dopamine and endorphins, that will help you feel relaxed and focused. But don’t let the idea of exercising cause you more stress. Keep it simple. Working out for just fifteen to thirty minutes can work wonders during finals week! Go for a jog on your dorm treadmill, try new stretches or yoga poses, or do a brisk speed walk around campus. As everyone who’s taken Physical Wellness Dynamics knows, you remember better when your mind and body are both active. 

5. Know How You Study Best

Some people study best when they tackle one subject at a time, but others benefit from mixing their study material up so they don’t get bored or drained. Do you need complete quiet to study, or do you remember things best when you have music or background noise? Are you more of a visual, auditory, reading and writing, or kinesthetic learner? While different subjects and types of exams might require a specific type of studying, you’ll be able to use your time most effectively when you know how you learn best. (If you’re not sure what type of learner you are, check out this quiz.) 

6. Find Your Ideal Study Spot

As much as I love meeting up with friends for a study date at Penny’s or A.J.’s, I know that I’ll end up too distracted to get any studying done. You might be the same way, in which case you should save social studying for next semester. Instead, hunker down in the Heritage Room, where the twenty-seven eagle statues will keep an ever-present eye on you. Or, if you want to mix it up, head to the overpass in the Dow science building or the Strosacker greenhouse. These aesthetic study spots will inspire you and give you a fresh perspective.

7. Do What’s Due First

As a typical student, you will be studying for about four exams in one week. While this seems overwhelming at first, dividing and conquering is an effective strategy to prepare. One of the best ways to tackle your enormous amount of class material is to prioritize first things first. Once you feel confident in that subject, move on to the next exam, and use that material to give your mind a break from the first subject. This will help keep your brain interested and keep you from getting bogged down in too many similar details.

8. Don’t waste Reading Day

Ahhh, Wednesdays never felt so good. That’s right, you’ve made it halfway through finals week! As a reward, Hillsdale blesses students with a day of no exams known as Reading Day. The purpose of Reading Day is to give you a mental reset from your past finals to energize you for the next few days, so use it wisely. I chose to sleep in for a few hours, meet a friend at Penny’s for a long conversation and a delicious mocha, and then hunkered down in my dorm room for some more intense studying.

9. Organize Study Sessions

Some Hillsdale classes like Western Heritage are built around group discussion, and going through study guides and exam material with your class is a fun, memorable way to study for your final. This tactic helps you get those pesky chronology questions answered, prepares you to confidently explain your opinion for essay exams, and refreshes you with the camaraderie of your equally stressed classmates.

10. Remember the Big Picture 

At the end of the day, college flys by. Your semester is just days away from being over. So instead of being consumed by stress the entire week of finals, maybe you should take a little mental break and enjoy some of what makes Hillsdale special before you go home for a long break. Give yourself the freedom to soak up the everyday beauty that exists even during finals week. If you’re looking for it, you’ll find it, and I guarantee that it’ll help you not only survive finals week but might help you actually enjoy it.

As Dr. Arnn likes to say, “Get your boots on.” If you keep these tips in mind, work hard, and remind yourself to enjoy life even in the midst of stress, you’ll not only survive; you’ll conquer finals week. Happy studying!

For Further Reading:

Creating Beautiful Study Spaces 

Hillsdale Study Playlists 

On the Run in Hillsdale 

Student Evalyn Homoelle Evalyn Homoelle, ’24, hails from the great state of Ohio and plans to pursue pre-allied health or political science and journalism. She is involved in Mock Trial and choir, and obsesses over dark chocolate, Jane Austen novels, classical music, and her golden retriever puppy.

Published in March 2021