A letter to those encountering their first college finals

Don’t panic, you got this

Finals.  They are here.  And everyone is panicking.

For those of you who have never taken college exams before, this is a huge deal.  Your midterms were probably eye-opening, and the second round of exams is upon you.  How will I remember all of the material for this cumulative exam, you think to yourself as you weep over your textbooks.  You vow to go to the library every day until your exams are over, but the stress looms over you.

As a senior taking her last rounds of finals, I have some advice to get you through.

Breathe.  This is just an exam

It might be hard to remember, but this is only a two-hour chunk of time in your entire life.  Prepare as best as you can, but know you will be OK when the two hours are up.  This moment will not define you, nor will it change the course of your entire life.  Unless you are Elle Woods.  Then it matters.

Sweat it out


I know it’s cold, but go outside.  Go for a run, go to the SERF, whatever you need.  Decide to make the trek to the farthest library from your house so you can shake out your legs.  Purdue University conducted an experiment and found college students who exercise get higher grades.  It’s a great way to relieve stress too, and the science will back me up on this.

Eat a vegetable


The late-night chips and queso are fine every once in a while, but the daily consumption will only make you feel gross and fatigued.  So will the pizza, the candy, and all the other junk food you bring to the library.  For your own sake, eat a vegetable.  Take an apple with you so you don’t get scurvy.  Your concentration will go up, and you’ll feel more motivated to study and less motivated to nap.

Don’t you dare pull an all-nighter


I had a friend pull an all-nighter and she ended up falling asleep during her exam.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of staying up all night?  If you don’t know the material by now, don’t stress yourself out more by slacking on your sleep.  Russell Foster did a TED Talk on why you need sleep, so if you don’t believe me, take it from a professional.

Find your study spot

As long as you are studying with him there!;;;;

As long as you are studying with him there

Having a spot will make studying more bearable.  Pick a place away from distractions, hide your phone for an hour, and put your nose in a book.  After an hour, resurface, reconnect for a bit, then do it all again.  The small reward will help you stay focused in the long run, and the reminder that this space is for studying, not sleeping or watching Netflix, will help you stay on task.

Plan something as a reward

I bought myself flowers because Im worth it

I bought myself flowers because I’m worth it

Having plans with friends or family right after your finals will make this process easier.  You have a goal in sight, and it will feel amazing to walk out of the lecture hall and to your fun night out.  Go to a movie with friends, order in nice food, anything that makes you feel relaxed and pampered.  You worked hard, and you deserve a reward.

Just remember, your life is much more than the grades you get.  You made it to a prestigious university, one that is selective with admissions, and you made the cut.  Whether you did well or not on your Bio 101 exam does not determine who you are as a person.  What matters is you didn’t give up, and you took care of yourself along the way.

University of Wisconsin