The home stretch

How to succeed during finals season, both academically and personally

The home stretch

As we creep further into December, excitement for winter break and the holiday season is undercut by frenzied preparations for finals week. As Jones moves into its earliest finals in recent memory, less preparation time only adds to the stress. Here’s how to ensure that you make the grade, while also making sure that you’re caring for your physical and mental health. 


  • Spaced study sessions

There is an ever-present temptation to save all your studying for the night before the big test – it’ll be freshest in your memory, right? While this method is appealing, it isn’t necessarily true. There are two kinds of memory: short-term and long-term. Long-term memory is a relatively limitless warehouse for memory, including knowledge. For the best success on your finals, that’s where you want to be keeping everything you need to know. Short-term memory, however, can only hold information for a limited amount of time, and will disappear without rehearsal. By cramming the night before, you aren’t giving yourself the time you need to rehearse the material and form it into long-term memories. This is going to make it much harder for you to summon that information the next day during your test, especially in a stressful environment.  


  • Taking breaks

The Internet is flooded with videos and tips on six, seven, even eight hour study sessions, touting them as the path to success. However, for many people, this isn’t going to be an effective method. It’s incredibly difficult to focus for extended periods of time, and as you start to get fatigued, you’re going to remember less and less information. Instead of these intense sessions, try 25-40 minutes of studying at a time, broken up by a five or ten minute break. Stand up and stretch, pet your cat, talk to a parent or guardian – anything that doesn’t involve sitting and staring at your notes. Be careful to not get distracted, though! Avoid any breaks that result in you getting distracted for longer than your allotted break time; this means that Instagram or TikTok might not be your best option.


  • Exercise 

Finals can be stressful, and the urge to either be studying or sleeping is strong. However, this ultimately isn’t healthy for you or effective for your learning. This is not encouraging you to run a half-marathon or lift a new personal record – rather, take a 20-minute walk around your neighborhood, do some yoga, or even just do ten jumping jacks in your room. Exercise will release a flood of endorphins into your brain, which are necessary to keep you happier during a difficult period of school. In addition to this, when you exercise, you increase blood and oxygen flow to your brain, which will support your neurons firing and aid in concentration while you study.


  • Sleep 

This is arguably the most important tip on this list, because you can’t be successful in almost anything without being rested. Your brain solidifies neural memory traces, and a well-rested mind will be better at spotting connections and thinking critically. These are all skills that will help you on your finals, and you’ll optimize by sleeping at least eight hours a night. We also know that your mood is by and large impacted by your sleep, and if you’re aggravated or sad during your finals, you won’t perform your best. 


So, here’s your best course of action: set aside time each week to review your subjects, focusing on topics that you struggle with. Aim to get at least eight hours of sleep a night in the weeks leading up to finals, or as close to that number as possible. Take 20 minutes each weekday to move your body in a way that’s enjoyable for you – maybe even build it in as a long break in a study session. Your body and mind have needs besides good grades. You’ll thank yourself later for following these tips and honoring both your academic life and personal life during this stressful finals season!