Preparing for finals to fend off the panic

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BYU student Jacob McClellan needed a cure for cabin fever one night after studying three hours for a chemistry test. He played games, ate a can of peaches, did laundry, ate a sandwich and learned NBA players’ stats.

Students can find study help and other resources from peer mentors and librarians in places like the Hub in the library. (Tatiana Hernandez)
Students can find study help and other resources from peer mentors and librarians in places like The Hub in the library. (Tatiana Hernandez)

He even considered memorizing all the countries in Africa before getting to his school work. “Oh and my studying?” McClellan said. “I wrote down an equation for the first problem.”

The last few weeks leading up to finals week can drain BYU students of motivation to work. However, following some simple tips can help students feel rejuvenated enough to survive and thrive in that last stretch of school.

Pre-finals preparation

Bryce Bunting, associate director for first-year mentoring at BYU, said the biggest help for students to de-stress from finals is to start early and consistently do a little work each day. “The students who are overly anxious are the ones who procrastinate,” he said.

He said in the peer mentoring program mentors focus on helping students manage their time by making a plan and sticking to it as soon as they come back from Thanksgiving break.

But Bunting suggested that students balance their school and fun times. He said taking a break from the monotony that long periods of school can bring actually fosters productivity.

“I think being involved in meaningful things outside of school can help a lot, whether that’s through service, clubs, church callings,” he said. “If all a student does is study before finals, it can be easy to get burned out as well. I think balance is important.”

Finals week perspectives

BYU senior Monica Bennett has worked as a peer mentor since Fall 2012. She said students should find what study methods work best for them prior to finals week.

“If that’s taking a break, take a break,” Bennett said. “That scares a lot of people. But at the same time, if you need to study, study. That’s not a time to blow off your final.”

Bennett encourages students she mentors to remember how finals can help their grades. “Finals are actually worth a lot of your grade in a good way,” she said. “You shouldn’t give up on a class, because it can really help you.”

If students do well on their finals, they can pull their overall class grades up to something like a B, Bennett said. “That’s not bad at all.”

Finals week tactics

Maureen Rice, from the BYU counseling center, recommended that students try breathing and relaxation techniques to de-stress.

Bennett said taking breaks is important to studying successfully. “There’s really only so much that your brain can handle,” she said. “If your brain isn’t taking anything in anymore, there’s really not much of a point to studying right then. Go take a break and come back.”

Internet resources like blogs and other websites (including Disney-themed articles) remind students to remember to eat, sleepexercise and do other things to calm themselves down and clear their minds.

Post-finals consolation or celebration

One way Bennett stays happy after a final, no matter the outcome, is by following advice her dad gave her.

“My dad said that every time, after he took a final, if he did poorly he would get a doughnut to make himself feel better,” she said. “But if he did well, he’d get a donut to celebrate. Either way, he was happy after a final.” Bennett does the same, but with chocolate milk.

Staying grounded during finals

Finals can intimidate and threaten to overwhelm students. “I feel like a small wildebeest that’s been chased by a lion for two hours straight, escaping for a few minutes only to encounter a crocodile when I want to take a drink,” McClellan said.

He copes, however, by taking naps, hiking, reading a book, listening to calming music and eating fruit. “Honestly, it all depends on what calms you down and helps you focus,” McClellan said.

“Don’t kill yourself with stress,” Bennett said. “Drive yourself crazy enough that you’ll do well, but not enough that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and scream.”

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