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7 Tips for College Students Preparing for Finals

college student studying at library

Adapted from 1st Financial Bank USA's Blog

Studying for finals – whether you’re a college freshman or a college senior – can feel overwhelming and bring on stress. Here are 7 study tips that might make the process a little easier and less stressful.

1. Make a study plan

Following good study habits can make or break how well you perform on your exams. Creating a plan -- and one you can stick to -- is key when preparing for finals. Your plan should help you spread out your study time, study for all your classes, and avoid pulling all-nighters. Some studies show that studying in smaller intervals, as opposed to cramming the night before a final, can be more effective.

Some students find it helpful to first create a calendar with all due dates and activities, so they can view all of their work in one place easily. Consider organizing your calendars by class and extracurriculars. Keeping your calendar and schedule all in one place may help you to feel in control of your study schedule, save time by allowing you to jump in and start studying right away, and reduce anxiety.

2. Make To-Do Lists

Some students find making to-do lists helps them stay focused. Write your to-do list by due date, which can help you prioritize your studying. When making your to-do list, consider making a shorter daily list the night before, but keep a longer weekly list as well -- with everything you need to accomplish for a single class, or even for all your classes, so that you can remember what tasks need to be completed.


3. Eliminate Distractions

Eliminating distractions can be challenging, but you may be surprised at how productive you can be when you turn off the TV or put your phone away. Think about the not-so-apparent distractions around you such as a roommate, pet, study buddy, or your social media feed. You may need to study in a completely quiet space. Or, if you need some background noise, consider turning on a fan or creating a playlist of music that helps you focus.

4. Eat balanced, healthy meals

Before and during your studying, it may help to consume foods that are going to help you stay energized and focused during your study time. Avoid foods that will make you feel sluggish and tired. Some of the best foods for studying, according to health experts, include berries and citrus fruits, nuts, and -- good news -- chocolate!

However, everyone is going to have different foods that may work better for their energy supply throughout their study sessions. Find what foods work best for you and stick to a consistent and healthy eating pattern.

5. Study in intervals

Instead of binge studying the night before your exam, start preparing weeks in advance by studying in time intervals. Try creating a study plan that requires you to focus for 25-minute intervals. Between intervals, take a two to three-minute break to walk or get a snack. This is known as the Pomodoro Technique. After your quick break, make sure to get back on task and focus on your next interval of studying. After four intervals, you can take a longer 20- to 30-minute break. If you have a tendency to feel distracted or overwhelmed when studying, the Pomodoro Technique may help.


6.  Take a break at the end of the day

Allow yourself half an hour at the end of the day to regroup. During this time, you might want to clean up your apartment, dorm, or other living space, review your to-do list for the next day, or do some deep breathing or meditation. That way, you can go to bed with a clean living space, an accomplished school schedule, and a clear mind.

7. Get a good night's sleep

As finals approach, it’s not uncommon for professors to pile on last-minute homework, projects, and various other assignments before you take the final exam. This potential increase in work might cause you to pull all-nighters, making it hard to prioritize sleep. Lack of sleep can result in a lack of energy, focus, and an excess consumption of caffeine.

A few ways you can ensure you get a good night's sleep is by creating a sleep routine. Choose a consistent time that you will go to bed and wake up, and avoid sleeping in. The earlier you start your day, the better your chances are of being more productive. Try to avoid being on your phone, computer, tablet, or watching TV for at least an hour before bed. This may help you to wind down and fall asleep faster.

Preparing for final exams can be difficult, and it can be challenging to create and stick to a study schedule that accommodates all your coursework and projects. Give yourself a break if you fall off your schedule or sleep routine. Developing good study habits as a college student often takes time. Trust that through trial and error you will find the methods that work best for you.

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