How to Survive Finals Week in College

Can you remember? Back to that very first day of class when you got the syllabus. You were thinking, “This is going to be awesome. I’m going to work ahead, knock out those papers early and be super prepared for all my labs.” See: Start College Right

Well, maybe you did…maybe you didn’t. But no matter what the bulk of the semester brought your way, it’s crunch time now. Finals week is finally here.

Finals are stressful even for the most prepared student because they hold so much weight. So much of your semester grade is contingent upon your performance on several comprehensive tests over a mere handful of days.

At this point, you know you should have studied more earlier in the semester and you’re probably aware of general stress-reduction techniques but that’s not what you need. You need to manage the crazy.

How to Survive Finals Week

1.) Log off all social media.

Delete the apps from your phone. You don’t need to have that tab open on your laptop. GO DARK. What was a fun way to connect with new friends over the course of the semester has become your number one enemy during finals. Nothing has the power to distract and derail you more.
See: When the Cool Kids Grow Up

2.) Figure out how you study best…and DO IT.

For me, it actually depended on the subject. I had a friend in college who learned best by teaching. In the subjects where I best studied in a group session (history, theology, philosphy, ethics, etc.) I always made sure to put myself in the same room as my teaching friend. It worked out best for both of us.

But some subjects I learned best by studying by myself. Figure out what works best for you and do that. Don’t waste time in group study sessions you don’t need or trick yourself into thinking you’re studying because you spent 3 hours making note cards.

3.) Eat and Sleep

If you were performing surgery at the same time as your final tomorrow the hospital wouldn’t let you binge eat all the Doritos and drink the entire caffeine contents of your local grocery store. At some point, you have to stop and sleep. Take care of yourself. Take breaks. This is why studying before now is so important. There’s only so much you can cram in a week.

My trick: Study hard for 2 hours, take a 5-10 minute break. Study hard another 2 hours. Take an hour break to eat a meal and go for a walk. Rinse and repeat as needed. Watch one episode of something on Netflix…not ALL the episodes. Pizza rolls are your friend, though…even if Mom’s not there to make them for you.

4.) Pray

One semester I set up a bean bag chair in the corner of my dorm room. It was gross and I don’t think it moved or was cleaned all year but it was my prayer spot. Finals are tough because they help you believe a lie, that all your identity is caught up in passing this test so you can graduate ahead of the person next to you so you can get a better job than the person you graduated next to so you can get a raise instead of the person next to you, etc. etc.

Don’t forget who made you, who gave you the opportunity to learn where he’s placed you. Don’t forget who holds the whole universe in his hands. Finals are important, but Jesus doesn’t check your transcript at the pearly gates. For some of you, the first words you need to focus on are Jesus’ last words, “It is finished.”

Study hard so you can succeed out of response to all that God has done for you, not to earn his love or admiration. God isn’t impressed with your 4.0 or bummed by your 2.0. He simply loves you. Don’t waste an opportunity to carve out some time to remind yourself of the simple truths of the Gospel in the place of prayer. See: On Prayer: Pews and Plastic Tables

5.) Spend (a little) time with friends.

Finals also signal the end of a semester. And every semester some students never return. Some graduate, others transfer to other schools. Some study abroad and some enter the work force or go back home, maybe for good.

Maybe on one of your study breaks you need to grab coffee with a friend or go on a date. I met my wife during finals week! You never know who you might meet that could potentially change your life. Friendship gets a lot harder after college – something about the real world, I don’t know.

6. Call your mother.

This has nothing to do with finals. Just do it. Because you should. Every day.

P.S. – when you rock a C instead of a B you can tell Mom you just couldn’t focus because you missed her so gosh darn much and that’s why you called so much. It works. And she’ll bake you cookies when you get home.


What other tips help(ed) you survive finals week?


A Word for the Wandering

Lately I have been thinking about the word “wander” a lot. It’s just been rolling around in my head for awhile now.

You know the feeling? It’s like when you decide what kind of car you want to buy next and all of a sudden they’re the only cars you seem to notice driving around town.

The idea of “wandering” usually conjures up a negative connotation:

  • the family that’s lost on a road trip trying to find their way
  • the rebellious teenager who seems to do the exact opposite of his parent’s wishes
  • the 30-year old who can’t figure what she wants to do with her life

I usually tune out when authors or speakers start a sentence like “Webster’s Dictionary defines _________ as blah blah blah…” but in this case I think it’s interesting.

(v. i.) To ramble here and there without any certain course or with no definite object in view; to range about; to stroll; to rove; as, to wander over the fields.

Webster’s takes the negative route, too. When did wandering get such a bad rap?

All of my recent thoughts on “wandering” have been rooted in a desire to reclaim it as something good, a beautiful journey.

As a pastor, I get to interact with all types of wanderers. Most of their wandering looks more like the ancient Israelites in the desert than the prodigal son on his pilgrimage of licentiousness. They may have lost their way a bit but they’re not hellbent on being hellbent.

I think there’s beauty in searching, not wandering aimlessly, but wandering while ultimately searching for something bigger than yourself, for significance, for purpose.

Godly wanderers can come in many forms:

  • The one who is recently divorced is not constantly throwing themselves a pity party. They’re wandering. They are trying to put their life back together and remind themselves through all the sleepless nights of doubt that they do matter. They are worth loving.
  • The 20-something seemingly jumping from job to job might not be perpetually flaky. They’re wandering. They are trying to find where they fit, truly fit.
  • The accountant who wakes up one day with no passion for work, feeling utterly stuck. She is curious if this is really the role to which she is supposed to devote her life. She is not necessarily ungrateful for her current lot in life; she’s wandering.
  • The single man in his 40’s who’s never found the woman to call his wife. He’s not a loser. He may have been ready for commit to someone for 20 years but he just has not met her yet. He’s not damaged goods. He’s wandering.

To any and all wanderers, I am growing increasingly more aware of and empathetic toward your journey. Know this: You don’t wander alone.

You don’t wander alone.

When the Israelites were wandering in the desert for forty years, God was with them every step of the way, even though it did not always feel like it.

Even when the prodigal son bolted from his loving father’s home, running headlong into a life of rebellion in every way, God was with him.

You don’t wander alone…so you don’t have to act like you do.

This might be one of the most common yet tragic facts about my friends who are modern-day wanderers. So many of them feel they must wander alone. Maybe they feel others don’t understand their journey. Maybe they have had negative encounters with people misunderstanding or belittling their current state of wandering.

No matter the reason for your wandering, it is not necessary for you to avoid community while on the journey.

A genuine group of people who care about you will consistently value you for you, not who they think you could or should be.

You are not a project to be worked on or a problem to be fixed.

You don’t wander alone. God is with you. And so are his people. In fact, we are all wandering together.

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