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finals week

In Academics, college on
December 1, 2017

How To Prioritize Self-Care During Finals Week

Oh my goodness, one thing I don’t miss about being in college and graduate school is this time of year. Finals is a time that will make or break you as a student. So many final tests are worth a big chunk of your final grade and you have a million end of the semester projects due. While this time can be stressful, it’s important to prioritize self-care during this time as well. I wanted to share my best tips on how to prioritize taking care of yourself during this time.

How To Prioritize Self-Care During Finals Week | Finals week can be a very stressful time for students, especially if this is your first time studying for finals. Today on the blog I am talking about how to prioritize taking care of and taking time for yourself even during a stressful time like finals week. #finalsweek #collegelife

Keep Reading, Darling

In Academics on
April 20, 2017

How To Manage Time During Finals Week

Managing your time and studying effectively during finals week is so important. Often finals are worth a big chunk of your grade and it’s now or never to showcase that you know what you are doing. This post is meant to help guide you through the time management process during the last few weeks of college to make sure that you are giving tests the adequate amount of time in the weeks leading up to finals week. I hope that you find this post helpful as you begin to go on this finals week journey whether this is your first finals week or your last.

 How To Manage Time During Finals Week | During finals week time management is essential to being your best self. Click through to read all my tips for managing your schedule, prioritizing your studying so that you can study for multiple tests, and other time and life saving hacks for finals week.

1. Figure Out Your Actual Finals Schedule

If you want to manage your time during finals week the first thing you need to do RIGHT NOW is check out your finals week schedule. Where are you supposed to be and when? Confirm this with your professors if you need to. Then map it out on a sheet of paper day by day, hour by hour. Once you have that information set in stone it can really help you plan the next step in the time management process.

See If Your School Has Rules For How Many Tests You Can Have A Day During Finals Week

Many schools have a limit of how many tests you can have during a single day or how many tests you can have during a 24 hour period but many students don’t take advantage of this awesome opportunity to reschedule their exams. IF your school has a policy like this it seems that most schools don’t want you to have three or more exams in one day which is entire possible depending on when your classes are as sometimes it feels that finals week schedules are so radically different from class schedules.

It is important that you figure out your schedule as soon as possible because some schools make you request this rescheduling in advance, which I can understand because often teachers will have to rearrange their entire schedule in order to make this happen if they don’t teach multiple sections of the class you are taking. If you must reschedule it’s probably a good idea to reach out early just out of common courtesy.

Many students don’t reschedule because they just want to get finals over with as soon as possible, but be sure that your grades are ready to wing it if you do.

2. Tally Your grades & Figure Out Where Your Focus Needs To Be

After you figure out your schedule, you need to figure out where your priorities lay. A number of factors go into this decision and while they are mostly grade based, there are other factors as well:

What is your grade in the class?

First and foremost, base it around your grade in the class. If you have a 100 in a class, how much can (or can’t) this knock your grade down. Sometimes you are blessed because your grade will be an A even if you get an F on the test. Those classes are always the best, and in order to understand that you need to calculate your grade. This grade calculator on Ben Eggleston’s website has literally saved my life when I have a class who doesn’t have a simple grading scheme. If your professor’s grades are based on percentages this calculator will seriously be your best friend.

  • Can you climb, drastically fall, or are you stuck in place? Further elaborating on the point I made earlier, you need to understand something–sometimes your grade is pretty locked in place. Often you may be stuck to get a B unless by chance you make a 117% on the final. If this is the case, figure out the lowest you can make to maintain your B and try to shoot above that score. On the other hand, sometimes it is SO easy to fall into a C or below unless you get a certain grade on a test.
    • These may seem like similar stories, but think of a person who has an 86 B versus a person who has an 80 B. One person is a little more secure in the fact that messing up a little on the exam will not hurt them, and one is pulling what my Chemistry teacher in high school used to say is a “Barely B.”
    • These two students will study drastically different because of how comfortable they are in the skin of being a B student. The first one has had a mixture of As and Bs and feels more confident in their ability to maintain while the second student has probably had some good Bs but also some Cs and they are so close to the edge.
      • The same can be said of a person with a 90 A versus a 96 A. The first student has had some As but also quite a few Bs, whereas the second one probably had almost exclusively different variations of an A. The student with a 96 will feel more confident because they have had more practice getting As than the student with a 90.
    • All of this to say, think about how comfortable you are in your ability to maintain or go to the next level with your score. Also think about the weight of falling if that is a possibility. Then factor that into where you focus when studying.

Is the final cumulative?

Second, is the test cumulative? Cumulative tests are always going to be more difficult than regular tests as you need to spend time relearning some concepts  from months ago in some cases. Cumulative tests tend to happen when the material builds on each other (think math and science related tests) but honestly cumulative tests can happen anytime anywhere.

If the test is cumulative that doesn’t mean you have to start freaking out just yet, but it does mean you may have to prioritize the test if you don’t remember a lot of the earlier material. You need time to fully immerse yourself to properly study for a cumulative test, especially if you are a student who likes to binge study (aka pulling all-nighters the night before, taking the test, and then forgetting everything once you are done.) 

If you have a pretty solid grasp on the material you may not need to spend a lot of time on cumulative tests but I would personally make them a bigger priority than tests that cover recent material only.

What are your test trends?

Third, what are the trends with how you have done on previous tests? You need to go to your test scores and notice trends. What are your test scores telling you? Below I am going to walk you through a few examples to show you how I might conceptualize test trends for four fictional students.

Fictional Test Scores

  • Student One: In this example, student one had three exams that got progressively worse. They started with a 90, then an 85, and then the last test score they received was an 80. This doesn’t mean that the student can’t score better, but the general trend has been a downward trend, so if they need more than an 80 to get the grade that they want, it would be in their best interest to prioritize the test.
  • Student Two: In this example, student two has a pretty straightforward upward trajectory in their test scores. They started with a 90, then a 95, and then lastly they received a 100. It could be believed that their final score will range between a 90-100 based on prior experience. Depending on the score they have and the score they want to maintain they may not need to prioritize the test.
  • Student Three: This student is pretty stagnant. They haven’t made any gains or negatives over the course of their exams as they have made a 90 on all of their exams. Depending on the type of exam they have and given that they maintain similar study habits it can be seen that they will probably make a similar score. On the other hand, based on the score of 90 it can be seen that this student is potentially a borderline “Barely A” student (but we can’t tell for sure because we don’t know what they got on other assignments.) If they are a borderline student they may still want to prioritize the test. Obviously this would probably be a different situation if the student had received 96 As on all previous tests.
  • Student Four: This student is a doozy. They did well on the first and second tests getting a 90 and 100 respectively, but then test three threw them for a loop and they got a 85. It would be in their best interest to reflect on why their last score was so low (Did they have other projects that week? Did they grow too confident in their testing abilities based on the upward trend? Did they study inefficiently?) Based on the answers to that reflection students in this situation should assess how seriously they take the final exam so they can make sure that get the grade they want.

When are your tests?

Now, let’s go back to the schedule we made in step one. This is not the end all be all of how you should study (because we are talking about other factors obviously.) You can easily study in order of test date, but in order to do that you need to feel really secure in all your test scores. It is important to understand when your tests are though.

For example, if your hardest test is on the last day of finals week, you may not have to put all your effort and energy into that test right away, but it does need to be on your mind throughout the week. Understanding when your tests are will help you pace yourself and study effectively during finals week.

What is the layout of the test?

You must also think about what they layout of the test is.

  • Is the test multiple choice, short answer, essay, a mixture of all those?
  • What test methods do you do best? Do you flourish on essay test or do better with fill in the blank?
  • How many questions are on the test?
  • Does the timing to take the test feel right or rushed?

Once you think about these questions at length you will be able to determine your thoughts about taking the test and how difficult it will or won’t be for you. If you feel good about how many questions are on the test and you do well with the testing methods you may not need to prioritize the test. However if the timing for the test or the test method doesn’t work well with you putting in extra studying time may help you feel more at ease so you may want to prioritize studying for the test.

Once you have ALL of these questions thought out remember the following statement:

Prioritization doesn’t mean don’t study

Prioritization means that you should study the tests in order of importance, but it never means don’t study for a test. There will be certain tests that you barely have to study for, but you should do the minimal amount of studying necessary to feel good about the test if possible. You need to make sure you feel comfortable on test day and that you don’t squander an opportunity for a particular grade. Prioritize how much time you spend studying for each test as that is important, but always study at least a little bit.

3. Start early, end early

All-nighters are not okay. The best advice I can give to you is to start early so you can end early. Start studying for your tests way before finals week so that you can break study sessions into reasonable chunks and so that you don’t have to pull as many all-nighters. I get that sometimes it’s necessary, but your goal should be to minimize them as much as possible. A long while ago I discussed the dangers of all-nighters and why I don’t like them. Follow those thoughts, and plan better study schedules.

When you study longer you can cut out a lot of sleepless nights which would be good for your overall health during finals week. Don’t stress out, instead, make sure you have an adequate study plan that breaks your studying down.

4. Manage your time using the pomodoro technique

Y’all already know how obsessed I am with the Pomodoro Technique. I explain this technique more in this blog post, but this method of studying really helps me stay focused and power through tasks without getting too distracted. I love this because it has small and larger breaks built in so you aren’t studying for hours on end. The act of taking a break really helps because it allows you to take some time away, evaluate your previous study session, and refocus your brain for a new chunk of time. If you don’t have that constant ring back to reality it can be easy to go hours “studying” and not actually accomplishing anything.

I am not saying that the Pomodoro Technique will be the answer to all your studying prayers, but I encourage you to test it out and see if it could be the best study method for you.

5. Remember to take actual breaks

Since the Pomodoro Technique includes so many “breaks” it can be easy to skip over the time that you actually need to yourself each day. Yes, the five minute short breaks and 25 minute long breaks are awesome, but they are not a break that you can really grab on to. Take an actual break and de-stress for a bit:

  • Take a nap
  • Read a book
  • Go for a walk
  • Cook a healthy meal
  • Go to the movies

Why is this important to time management? Taking care of yourself during finals week is of the utmost importance. I know it seems counter productive to take a few hours off, but this is a crucial step. You can’t do anything if you break down during finals week due to stress. All your careful planning and methodical organizing will be for naught if you end up so sick you can’t get out of bed. Taking the time to recharge your thinking cap is so important so that you can survive finals week.

Finals week isn’t an easy task. You are literally doing multiple important tasks in all your classes whether that is writing a paper or taking a huge final test. Think of this as the Boss Battle in a video game–you want to make sure you have adequate energy before you go into the final battle.

6. Keep a finals pack nearby

When you are studying for finals, often times studying gets the best of you and you may be studying for a test up until the last minute. Then, the last minute turns into way too close to the time to take your test and you aren’t ready to go just yet. This is why you should have a just in case finals pack ready and by the door. What are some things you should consider putting into your finals pack?

  • Scantrons (if your teacher doesn’t provide them)
  • A small calculator if you are taking a math class (a small calculator is better than no calculator and being late) and depending on how you store your finals pack, a regular calculator
  • #2 pencils
  • Pens
  • A couple sheets of scratch or ruled paper
  • Snack crackers or 100 calorie snack packs (in case you get hungry)

You can probably fit all of these items inside a ziplock bag or even a tiny tote bag. Have these items packed in case you are running late. Sometimes you get a crappy final exam time (who thought of finals at 8 AM?) or you just are too busy studying to remember the time so having this bag is a lifesaver. 

7. Take a deep breath and slay

Before your test remember to breathe and slay. You got this. You have prepared your heart out and I believe in your hustle. When I want to remind myself of something, I make an inspirational wallpaper. Lucky for you, I got ya covered so you don’t have to spend your time procrastinating like I did. Instead, click the picture below and you will be taken to a Dropbox folder where you can download all of my awesome Take A Deep Breath And Slay wallpapers. You can change them out each day of finals week–or you can just use the one you like the most. You can also pick which one(s) you want to download in case you don’t want them all.

In Academics on
October 31, 2016

How To Kick Ass During The Academic Final Countdown

Today is the last day of October which means that November and the end of the school year are coming soon. Today on the blog I am going to give you 8 things to remember during this final month of school so that you can kick ass and end the semester on a high note!

 How To Kick Ass During The Academic Final Countdown | The last month of the semester can be difficult. Today's post shares 8 things you can to make this final month a success.

1. Calculate your final grade

Right now it is really important to know where you stand so you can calculate where you want to be. Some professors don’t make calculating your grade easy though. If your professor’s grades are weighted, check out this grade calculator by Dr. Ben Eggleston at KU. I can’t tell you how much of a life-saver this calculator has been to me over the years. I don’t want to calculate grade percentages on my own! The great thing about this calculator? You can also figure out what average you need on remaining assignments to get a certain grade in the class, and figure out what grade you will get if you get a certain average on leftover assignments. Totes cool.

make sure your grade on blackboard/canvas is correct

Professors are sometimes a little forgetful. They may hand you something back with a grade and forget to put it up on Blackboard/Canvas. Sometimes they have other copies of your grade outside of Blackboard or Canvas but it never hurts to check. If the grade you calculate is drastically different from your grade online pay your professor a visit and get it sorted out. You would be surprised how something small really makes a difference.

For example, in undergrad during my sophomore year I took a Social Problem class. The professor uploaded our grades and I had a B, I really wanted an A but I didn’t want to complain and I was just happy I got a good grade. Someone else in the class did end up talking to the professor about their grade which made him realize there was a mistake in the final grading. This didn’t affect everyone, but it affected a few people and one of those people was me. I ended up with an A in that class because someone knew exactly what their grade was supposed to be and inquired about it. I know you might not talk if you end up with a decent grade, but it never hurts to do some last minute calculations during this time of year.

Always keep up with your assignments

Just as a quick note, always keep up with your assignments as they are passed back to you. As I stated earlier sometimes professors are forgetful and they hand you something back without recording the grade. If that happens you need to be able to have something tangible to show them in order to get the points you deserve and the only way to do that is to have the original paper with their grade on it. If you get something, keep up with it!

I know that a lot of people get expanding or accordion file folders in order to keep up with their work in. These are great because they are cheap and you can keep up with a lot of courses in one folder.

Be conscious of how much of your grade is still up for grabs

The final countdown is notorious for being a grade breaker or maker. Most professors have courses that are extremely backloaded which means that most of your course grades will come from the end of the course. This semester, for example, my final paper in my social organization course is worth 50% of our grade! Even though I currently have an A in the course, this paper is crucial, and I cannot afford to fail the paper.

You need to understand where the bulk of your course is coming from. Some professors do a great job of distributing the weight of the class throughout the semester, but you need to look at the syllabus to determine how things are weighted. Once you do this you can accurately pace yourself as you figure out how to spend your time during the rest of the semester.

2. write down an aggregate list of your final assignments

Around this time of the semester I like to sit down, open up all the syllabi for the courses I am currently taking, and create an aggregate list of my final assignments. I get really frazzled during this time of the semester and I forget things frequently, so having this list helps me stay on top of any leftover assignments. I usually print out this list and stick it on my desk or in my binder–wherever I am most likely to see it daily. Here is an example of what my list looks like right now.

In the above picture the top part is all of the assignments I have left in the two graduate school courses I am taking. In the bottom table I am helping grade papers for one of my professors so I have also listed the last few grading assignments I have left in that course along with their due dates.

You can color code your list, have a space to check off your assignments as you go, and even make a row that tells you the weight of the grade on the assignment. How you decide to do your list is completely up to you.

Write it on a sticky note

If you like something a little more tangible, get out your sticky notes and write down all your due dates on a sticky note. You can then stick this in your planner, on the hand rest on your laptop, or even on the mirror in your bathroom so it’s one of the first things you see.

If you have a Windows PC like me (I also have a MacBook but I do most of my school work on a PC desktop as of this semester) they have an app called Sticky Notes where  you can make digital sticky notes and pin the note to your PC. This is great if you do most of your school work on a computer so you can access your sticky note with all of your due dates as soon as you turn on your computer.

Stop taking things week by week

During the semester it is easy for your motto to be, “If tomorrow isn’t the due date, today isn’t the do date,” but now it’s crunch time! You have to stop taking things week by week. Once you get this weeks tasks done, your next step is to keep moving through your to do list as much as possible. If there is something you could be working on, and you are not waiting on your professor to give you further instructions, start working on it!

Take note of any upcoming schedule changes

This part of the semester gets really busy and things change all the time. With Thanksgiving Break coming up as well as Finals Week you need to make sure you know where you need to be and when. Take note of your finals week schedule, and any re-scheduled or cancelled classes that are happening as a result of the end of the semester. You never want to forget that your 8 AM lecture is cancelled and be the only one who shows up to the course.

3. get rest

Your brain needs rest more than anything. Sleep is how your brain processes vital information and turns words into long term memory. As you can see by this graphic from Amerisleep, sleep is very important to the brain

 Information Source & Additional Reading Information Source & Additional Reading

Since sleeping does all of this for your body, why would you want to deprive your body of sleep? I know finals are stressful, but don’t cram and take your test. You need the information that you learn to transfer over to your long-term memory and therefore you need sleep to make that happen.

4. visit your professor before finals week

I am going to be honest with you–the only time that office hours are utilized is midterms and finals week. Visiting during finals week is extremely ineffective because at this time during the semester there is very little your professor can do to actually help you succeed. It’s also ineffective to go during this time of the year because literally everyone and their mother is going to office hours during this time (and literally some people’s mothers go because, you know, helicopter parents.)

You need to make it a priority to go now while the lines are clear and you can get in and get out of the professors office without waiting in those long finals week lines. This also helps your professor’s thoughts of you because they know you are a more serious student than those who just come because of finals week.

5. Make a list of all the errands you need to run before the end of the semester

During this part of the semester you probably have a long list of things you need to do before the semester is over and you can go home to enjoy winter break. Here is a small list of things you may need to remember to do before you go home.

  1. Schedule and attend your advising appointment. (Check out this article from my blog written by an adviser about how to have your best advising appointment.)
  2. Register for classes.
  3. Start finding housing for next year.
  4. Fill out any graduation paperwork if you are graduating in the spring.
  5. Return any book rentals/sell back your textbooks.
  6. Make a list of everything you need to buy before the semester begins.
  7. Make sure you don’t have any unpaid parking tickets or bills to the university.
  8. Start looking at and purchasing the textbooks you will need for next semester.
  9. Make sure your financial aid is in order for the next semester.
  10. Figure out any bills you need to pay for your apartment/house during the break.

This list is a small list, and there may be items on this list that don’t even apply to you. Start figuring out your list of things you need to do before the next semester, especially things you need to do while you are in your college town.

6. Have fun

Yes, the final countdown is a serious time, but you also need to schedule some time for fun. Don’t let this month get so serious that you forget to take time for yourself. Listed below are 10 fun things you can do during the next month to have some fun.

  1. Get your nails done.
  2. Go to the movies.
  3. See a basketball game.
  4. Go bowling.
  5. Go to a concert.
  6. Have a Netflix marathon.
  7. Take a walk in the park.
  8. Visit animals at the animal shelter.
  9. Go (window) shopping.
  10. Play a video game. (I personally suggest anything in The Sims franchise.)

7. Remember to study how you study best

During this time of the year your friends, your classmates, or people on your hall may want to get together for study groups. During this time of the semester it’s really easy to find yourself in study situations that you are not used to. You need to remember how you study best and study that way during the final countdown. I personally can’t study well in groups or in the library so I need to be on my own in my room or in my office at work. I know how I study best and I have to use that to study.

It’s okay to spend a little bit of your study time in new places, but if you know you don’t study well in a particular location, you also need to make sure you are scheduling adequate study time outside of those situations. So don’t allocate 10 hours to studying and then spend all of those 10 hours in an environment that doesn’t help you study.

8. Join me during The Happy Arkansan’s Encouragement Month

Lastly, in order to kick ass during the academic final countdown join me on Instagram for Encouragement Month. Each day during November I will be sharing an inspirational quote and a message to go along with that quote at 9 AM CST. This will be a great way to get daily inspiration as you start the final countdown in November. I know we all need extra inspiration to succeed and kick ass during this time of the semester. I have already posted about the month a few times on Instagram so go check it out the link below to learn more, and follow me while you are there.

Final Thoughts

The final countdown is probably the hardest part of the semester, but I know you are capable of succeeding at this part of the semester. You are so smart and you will accomplish amazing feats during this last month of the semester. Remember to keep moving ever forward, have some fun, and get some rest during this last month of class.

In Academics on
April 22, 2016

The Ultimate Finals Survival Guide

Finals are quickly approaching for college students across the country. I have survived many finals weeks with great success and I am here to day to share with your the finals survival guide that I have been using to help me manage five finals at once during my undergraduate career.

 The Ultimate Finals Survival Guide | Do you want to survive finals this year? Click through to find out tips from a college alumna and graduate student on surviving finals week and the finals countdown easily!

Having a plan of action is very important during finals week. You want to make sure that you are prepared for the uptick in assignments, tests, and papers. I am hopeful that these tips will help you come up with your own finals survival plan.

Calculate Your Grades For Each Class

At this point in the semester I like to gather all of my grades and do some grade calculations. In my opinion this helps me to determine which of my classes that I really need to focus on, as well as what I can actually accomplish in the semester. For example, if I have an 84 or something like that I know that all I really need to do is maintain that B. Sometimes you know that there is no way to get to the next level, because it’s just not possible. So instead of trying to accomplish everything, I just stick with what I know I can accomplish. I love when professors have easy to calculate grade systems, but in case they don’t I love using this grade calculator to see what I need to get in a class. It makes the whole process easy.

Figure Out What You Have Left To Do

Also, during this point in the semester I love to make a new to-do list featuring all of the things I have left to do for the semester, their due dates, and the percentage of the grade or points they are worth. This is really helpful when it comes to doing the work for the year so I make sure nothing slips out of my mind. I make sure to check back with this list every few days or every week so I don’t miss anything. Now that I only have class once a week I usually check it weekly, but when I was in undergrad I checked it a lot more often.

Figure Out Your Probable Test Scores

It’s really easy to figure out your probably test scores. First and foremost, figure out your average test score that you have gotten thus far in the class. This is really helpful if you have had a few tests under your belt, but if you haven’t you may have to do some guessing. In that situation use a similar class if this is your major and you have taken tests in other major classes. For example if I haven’t had any tests in Sociology Class A, I would see what my test scores have been like in Sociology Class B. I would assume that those test scores would be pretty similar, assuming I know the topic pretty well and I work just as hard in both classes.

Make sure you determine what the test will be like. Is it comprehensive or just like any other test? That will definitely change how you decide to study for this test and might change your probable test scores.

Fill Out Any Study Guides

If your professors are kind enough to do an in class review or give you a study guide–USE THE STUDY GUIDE/REVIEW. I cannot state this louder, honestly. They can give you so many good clues and tips on what will be on the test. As a graduate assistant this semester I have had the privilege of seeing a class from a different perspective, and I promise that if you listen you will begin to see just how many clues your professor will give you about the tests in class. Listen to the things they constantly repeat, the things they put on the board, and of course anything that’s on a study guide.

Finish Assignments ASAP

The sooner you finish your assignments, the better. When you can focus less on random assignments, you can focus more on the tests that you have coming up in your courses. So my tip to you is to actually focus on getting your assignments done as soon as you can and don’t wait until the last minute. You should know all of the assignments that you have left thanks to the assignment to-do list you wrote earlier, so try to get some of those things checked off your list now.

Figure Out Your Finals Week Schedule

Next, make sure you know your finals week schedule. During finals week everything is topsy-turvy. Most colleges don’t have finals during your class period, but at random times during the semester. Make sure you go through every class and figure out when your final is compared to the week and your other finals. With this information you can determine which classes you need to study for first based on where they are during finals week and where they are on your class ranking that you made earlier based on your probable test scores.

Don’t Forget To Get Sleep and Destress

Last, but not least, don’t forget to take sometime to yourself during finals week. Yes, this is a stressful time of the year, you want to make sure everything gets done, and you want to make sure you don’t fail any class–but you also need to make sure that you are giving yourself time to relax, sleep, eat, and have a little fun. Don’t go crazy, but you definitely need to take breaks and get a good amount of sleep. You won’t function on all-nighters, and the work you get done won’t make much sense if you are sleep deprived while writing it.

I hope these tips help you during finals week. I know that you will crush it and show finals who’s boss!