12/16/2011 01:44 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2012

How to Get Through Finals - and Then Get Home for the Holidays

By Alana Patrick
St. Olaf College

It's the most wonderful time of the year... or so Andy Williams claims in his holiday classic with the same title.  For the average college student, December's tune has a slightly different ring.  Though the end of the semester approaches (meaning, for most, the anticipation of a holidazzled trip home), one sizable Scrooge blocks the way: finals.  And no matter how much hot cocoa you drink or how many times you skip studying to watch Elf, these tests will not be holiday-cheered away.  However, applying yourself to exam preparation can be difficult, especially with the end so near in sight.  Here are some tips that will help you buckle down:

1. Get organized

Plan rough "study schedules" for each class.  Without overwhelming yourself, try to get in a little studying each day -- then you won't have to cram at the last minute!  Also, make sure to organize notes, flashcards, etc. in one, easily-accessible place (e.g. a folder for each final).  You don't want to have to turn your backpack inside out every time you need a review sheet.

2. Find a study spot -- alone

Unless you prefer studying in a group, find a quiet place where friends won't distract you.  Reward yourself for productive solo studying by hanging out with friends later.  Really crunched on time?  Don't abandon your buds completely!  Meals are the perfect time to catch up with fellow studiers -- after all, everyone has to eat!

3. Take breaks

No one, not even that straight-A genius in your Physics class, can study 24/7.  Even two or three hours in a row can be difficult.  So, take breaks.  Study for an hour, then take ten minutes to grab a coffee or browse the internet.  Better yet, go for a run.  Exercise will clear your mind and rejuvenate you for more studying.

4. Deactivate your Facebook

We've all heard it before: Facebook use affects your studies.  But don't just take everyone's word for it.  Instead, try no-Facebook finals for yourself.  I had my roommate change my password at the end of last semester, and was pleasantly surprised with my increase in productivity.  Yes, sort of pathetic, but also completely true.

5. Sleep

Like food, it's something without which you cannot function.  Benefits of a full night of sleep include increased creativity and ability to focus.  If you know ahead of time that you'll absolutely need to pull the all-nighter, try to nap before and after.

There's no way around the fact that finals are a stressful period of the college student's life.  But keep in mind, there's no better feeling that the freedom when you've turned in the last exam, a feeling punctuated if you felt you prepared for the questions.  So, keep that in mind during the long library nights ahead.  The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner.

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