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Finals week is the most dreaded period of a college student’s semester. Exams, papers, presentations…it’s a living hell. You’re uncertain you’ll survive to reap the benefits of the much anticipated, month-long winter break, the light at the end of a seemingly endless dark and dank tunnel.

You need a strategy.

You don’t have to flat line this finals season. Take our advice. Let us be your lantern and stay ahead of the game to get through that tunnel with confidence.

What You’ll Need

  • Caffeine
  • Internet Access
  • Notecards
  • Highlighters
  • Recording Device (handheld recorder, smartphone, etc.)
  • Classmates
  • Friends
  • Sleep

How to Survive

Planning in advance can save you from panic attacks, mental breakdowns, or just wearing yourself out. Begin building a process using these study tips at least one week before finals, and you’ll find yourself much more confident when taking on the last week of the semester.

1. Ask Questions

If you don’t understand something, there’s a good chance that at least one other person doesn’t get it, either. Don’t be afraid to speak up in class. If you prefer a one-on-one, approach your professor after class or arrange to meet during office hours. If you find you have multiple questions, make a list and bring it with you so you know you’ve covered all the bases (make sure to record the answers on your list).

2. Make a Study Guide

Your professors won’t always supply you with study guides. Even those who do won’t include everything on the test. If you’re lucky enough to have a professor who hands out a study guide, add to it. Adjust it to make it your own—include information with which you’re particularly struggling. Rephrasing the information into your own words, whether you write, type, or record, helps you retain that info longer.You can also create flashcards out of dollar store index cards to memorize everything from scientific formulas to vocabulary words. And, unlike in high school, you can actually write and highlight in your textbooks.

3. Arrange or Join a Study Group

It often helps to have a support group when studying for finals. When you get involved with study groups, you can learn how to tackle topics from different perspectives and maybe even discover more effective study tips.Even if your friends aren’t taking the same courses, they can still take part in your studying process. Ask a friend to help you review your flashcards. You’ll come up with some inside jokes to associate with certain words, phrases, or topics that will prompt a chuckle during test time (and you’ll likely be able to recall the answers you need).

4. Adjust Your Schedule

Form a study schedule, and stick to it. It’s okay to reschedule your day-to-day activities. Jenna will understand if you can’t go with her to see the latest box office topper after Oceanography the Friday before finals.When developing your study schedule, don’t drown yourself in hours upon hours of intense topics. Taking 15- to 20-minute breaks and using these study tips can make a huge difference when preserving your sanity. Make room for well-deserved friend time—meet up with Jenna for coffee, have dinner in the dining hall with your roommate, check out recreational activities on campus.

5. Get Out of Your Dorm Room

The worst possible place to study is on your bed. Before you know it, everything’s a blur. You’re falling through Dante’s nine circles of Hell because you think you failed your ODE exam. An hour later you jolt awake, drool soaking through the pages of your English lit textbook and paranoid you’ve missed the review session.Even if you’re at your desk, you can’t help but be drawn in by the sweet sound, comparable to those of Homer’s sirens, coming from your pillows. Sleep is essential for survival, but not in the middle of your study sessions.

Your best bet is to take your headphones and study materials to the library or nearby café with free Wi-Fi and good coffee.

Don’t wait until the night before your exam to pack your brain with dates, statistics, and formulas. Pulling all-nighters can actually strain your brain, and you need to be in tip top shape to perform your best during each exam. Use these study tips to create and implement your own survival plan for finals week this semester.