Classes in the Fall usually end on the first or second Friday of December. Reading period is the four days (6 if you count the weekend) we get to study for finals which usually begin the Thursday after classes end. My first semester, finals period was pretty stressful. I had two final papers and two final exams to study for, but in the middle of it all, my brother was graduating college! I had to leave campus for 48 hours to drive to Pennsylvania and study in the car/when my family was not doing graduation stuff.
Sophomore year I decided to start a routine and plan studying or paper writing ahead of time, and each semester I’ve been learning more about the things that not only make me feel a little less overwhelmed during a stressful 1.5-2 weeks, but also habits that encourage me to keep up with my wellness/feeling good and healthy.
Of course, these two weeks are not all terrible. You’re done with classes and there are hundreds of different study breaks from acapella performances to game nights to wellness events and (in non-COVID times) simply to free food! There are so many resources at Yale that offer study breaks and wellness tips––the Goodlife Center, cultural centers, your residential college––but what the tips and wellness habits I’m sharing are all based on my own personal experience. After seven semesters of Yale, seven semesters of finals, I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at managing this stressful period of time.
Setting a flexible schedule: Planning which days/hours you’ll devote to studying or writing a paper or doing a final project can be super helpful. Sometimes I plan to finish an assignment in three days and move onto the next and sometimes I work on multiple assignments at once (procrastinating a paper by working on another paper this semester was my go-to). Be open to your schedule changing. I’ve learned that sometimes I’ll finish a paper ahead of time or feel good about how much I’ve studied and other times I won’t and that is okay!
Hydrating, Eating, Moving: Sometimes I wake up early but completely unmotivated for all the work that I have to do. When that happens, I usually workout, drink water, and have some food. It’s easy to be so overwhelmed during finals that you forget to take time to eat, drink water, or move your body! And a lot of study breaks tend to be later at night/have a lot of heavy or unhealthy food (which is delicious but doesn’t always feel the best to eat a lot of pizza after a whole day of not having any food).
I made a lot of smoothie bowls for breakfast this finals period
Finding a good workspace: This was a bit harder this year given that I was home so my only work space was my room/desk. But usually I look for cool study spots and stay there for that day. My favorite on-campus study spots are: the La Casa second floor (the rooms are colorful and comfortable, which can be dangerous for falling asleep!), the Trumbull dining hall (there’s a bench next to a window I’ve claimed as mine), and the little study space above this store called Gant (this one is definitely random and not super popular which is why I love it).
Taking (FUN) Breaks: Scheduling breaks into my finals schedule is my favorite thing! Sometimes those breaks are just a quick stretch, talking to a friend, meetings or getting lunch and sometimes they’re longer, super fun activities! Finals are always close to the holidays so there’s always holiday-themed activities like my dance team’s holiday party or watching a Christmas movie with friends and doing a gift exchange! It’s always good to have a mix of shorter breaks, taking some time away from the screen or your notes, and more fun activities that celebrate the end of a long semester with friends before everyone goes home for break! This year, being at home, many of my breaks consisted of making yummy food and just spending time with my family.
Gift-exchanges with friends and ornament making as study-breaks for the Holidays!
Self-care time: Self-care looks different for everyone. I’ve learned that while face masks are fun, it’s not just face-masks and netflix but more so doing things that make you feel good. And that can be as simple as taking a walk or Facetiming a loved one. Whatever it is, I’ve learned that just having time during finals––and honestly the semester––I do things that make me feel good, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, I usually just feel better about everything that lies ahead.
I took a walk in the park by my house/played in the snow last week
And while these tips certainly have helped me, finals can still be brutal. I’ve learned, however, the more time I spend dreading all the work I have, the less time I spend actually doing the work! So, the best thing I can do is push through the final stretch and when it’s over, I can reward myself with all the Holiday cheer and relaxation I want! And after 70 pages of final papers this semester, that’s exactly what I’ve done!