12/12/2012 07:18 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

Embracing Final Exam Week

Few events influence the atmosphere on a college campus more dramatically than a week of final exams. It's stressful. You can feel it. Sleep deprivation and compromised immune systems are the norm. The first-year residence halls are full of mononucleosis, bronchitis, and tonsillitis. Coughing is almost symphonic at times. Students, faculty, and staff members are feeling overwhelmed and ready for a long winter's nap. A brief visit to the main library is eerily similar to viewing an awful '80s horror movie. Nests of caffeine-dependent zombies with glazed expressions and questionable fashion choices gather together for this shared ritual.


Ask anyone who ever attended college to share a final exam story. You will likely be treated to an embellished, animated account of good triumphing over evil -- as though the individual fought a fierce battle, armed only with a pencil, against the forces of a potentially bad grade. In 1980, I sat for my very first college exam wearing hideous flannel pajamas, a Red Sox hat, and brand-new L.L. Bean boots. Really pretty. Regardless of the outfit, I claimed a major victory after oversleeping, scaling snow banks, and audibly scrambling to the third floor of Murdock Hall. I looked ridiculous. But I was never again late for an exam. Ever. And I still have those Bean boots...

To all of the current college students tucked away in secret study caves and hidden dungeons of the library... unite! Rally together and share your tales from the trenches of final exam frenzy! It is one of the few times the entire campus is experiencing similar emotions, challenges, accomplishments, and rather desperate hairstyles. After consulting with a team of experts -- the peer advising staff at Colgate University -- here are five strategies for final exam bliss:

Embrace your superstitions/routines. It is not weird to use your lucky pen/pencil. Chew on your favorite candy while reviewing notes. Use the same exact study space all week. Post inspirational messages to stay motivated. Flaunt that ugly flannel shirt for its magical powers of comfort and concentration. Purposely wear mismatched socks. Create your own exam tradition.

Eat like a champ and sleep like a baby. Breakfast is crucial. Eating well the morning before an exam is the most consistent piece of advice shared. Pump some fuel in that tank. Set a self-imposed curfew. Rest your brain for the next day. All-nighters, while legendary, are frequently counter-productive. There is no substitute for sleep.

Rise and shine. Literally. Get out of bed. Give yourself adequate time to wake up and shake off the mental cobwebs. Shower and dress for success. Four out of five seniors agree: they've never done well on an exam when wearing sweatpants. If you look and feel serious, you will take the exam more seriously.

Assemble your toolbox. Gather and organize your materials. Pack a bag with snacks and supplies. Drink lots of water. Use all of your available resources. Prepare study guides for each course. Find an empty classroom with a chalkboard and outline your notes. Pretend to teach an imaginary class. Read, recite, repeat.

Give yourself permission to be wacky.This may be the most important piece of advice. Take a study break. Dance. Sing. Be goofy. Make a pumped-up exam playlist. Release the silliness. Blow off steam. Unleash your inner-geek.

Best wishes for a safe, healthy and successful exam week!