So Much To Do, So Little Time
By Steven Zapel and Emily Stoll
With the end of the semester drawing near, students find themselves overloaded with final papers, projects, presentations, and exams. Many students experience a lot of stress during this time of year and find it difficult to deal with the pressures the end of the semester brings.
INSIGHT reporters Steven Zapel and Emily Stoll hit the streets to find out different methods students use to cope with these pressures and stresses, and tips some professors have for getting through the last few weeks of the term.
Katie Kivinen, a sophomore in Physical Therapy, says that she tries to finish her work during the day so that she has time to sleep. She drinks lots of coffee and says it’s very important to try to “be happy,” because getting angry does not help get things done. “Keep in touch with friends at home,” she says, to help keep your spirits lifted and your motivation up during the end of the semester.
“Take lots of naps,” and “no all-nighters” was the advice given by sophomore English/Communications major Shakeel Alexander. It’s very important to get plenty of rest because your brain functions a lot better when rested.
He also says to “take your time”; rushing through assignments and studying really doesn’t help anything. Try as many practice problems as you can, he advises, because they will help you learn and retain the information you need for exams.
Dackon Johnson, a third-year student in the Childhood and Special Education department, suggests “doing as many of your assignments as you can prior to their due date.” He finds he has about half the work to do on school days if he tries to “do your bigger assignments over breaks, like Thanksgiving vacation.”
Johnson says to remember to take breaks while studying and to really focus on your time management during the final weeks of the semester. “Try and do the smaller assignments,” he suggests. “And study in-between classes and work.”
But second-year social work major Amber Zielinski practices quite a different strategy. “I procrastinate and wait ‘til the last minute, because I work better under pressure,” she says. She tells The INSIGHT she usually waits until the last two days before something is due to start working on it, so she feels a sense of urgency. This helps her to focus and get the work done.
However, Mackenzie Lewis, a third-year Physical Therapy student, says to “study a little bit each day instead of cramming.” She says not to study for eight hours in a row; take breaks while you’re studying and do something fun to give your brain a rest. She strongly suggests “finding someone in the class to study with, because coping together is way better than coping by yourself.”
It’s clear that the students have many different strategies, but what about faculty? How would they recommend dealing with end-of-semester stress?
Professor Renee Daniel, chair of the Department of Social Work and Sociology, suggests “getting plenty of rest, and do not study all night; the brain can only handle so much.” She believes students should study in hour-long cycles, taking breaks every hour to give your brain a rest. She also says it’s very important to thoroughly review all of your notes and to utilize all of the tools available to you, such as the review sections and online practice exams your text book may provide.
Professor Daniel says that when taking an exam, trust your first instinct. Answer the questions you know right away, and come back to those you’re unsure of afterwards. When writing a paper, she says it helps to “have someone else read your paper so they can see if you accomplished your goal in the paper, preferably someone who is not in the class and from a different major.”
But not all of the end-of-semester stress originates from old-fashioned ink and paper exams; presentations have plagued the minds of many a student as classes draw to a close. “When giving a presentation,” says Professor Daniel, “make sure to dress for success. Do not read off you slides, and remember that power point is free, so use more slides instead of cramming a lot of information onto each slide.”
Lastly, Professor Daniel says not to “live off caffeine and nicotine.” Remember to eat well and provide proper nutrition to your body and brain.
The Executive Director of Academic Support Services, Dr. Blake Thurman, advocates the benefits of exercise. “Many students do not get the same amount of exercise during the end of the semester,” he says, “and exercise is important because it creates a rush of endorphins for your body, which makes you sleepy so you sleep better.” Your brain and memory work much better when they are properly rested.
Dr. Thurman also suggests reading a bit of a book that has nothing to do with academics, something that you find interesting but will be able to put down after a chapter or two. Lastly, Dr. Thurman says it is important to “break things down into doable pieces” so that you do not get discouraged and feel overloaded.
It is also important to give yourself positive self-talks, says Carol Mcphillips, coordinator of The Learning Center in the R.I.C. Remind yourself that you have gone to class every day, reviewed your notes, and visited a coach (if needed), and remember that because you have done all of these things, you will do well on finals exams and assignments. Tell yourself “I have done the things necessary to be successful.”
She also suggests visiting a coach for the class in The Learning Center if you find that you are having trouble with certain material in a class. Another suggestion is to “rehearse the information out loud and to act like you are coaching someone else.” If you have the opportunity, find a study partner from the class and take turns teaching each other the material. Or find a friend or family member whom you can try to teach the material to. If you can teach the material to someone else, then you truly know it."
Hopefully you can use these other students’ methods—or the tips provided by the faculty—to help yourself cope with the end-of-semester stress, better prepare yourself, and build up your confidence heading into the last week of classes and finals week. Remember to get lots of rest and to take breaks while studying so you don’t overload your brain.
The INSIGHT staff wishes the best of luck to all students during these two weeks and hopes we've provided students with some useful tools to help cope during this stressful time. Finally, remember that winter break is almost here. Don’t forget the relief that comes with completing another semester of your college career.