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Dear COMPASS,

Here we go again! Another semester, and I’m dreading finals week. I’ve got essays and exams coming at me from every which way, and I don’t know how to cope. Help!

Sincerely,
Finals Are Stressing Me Out

Dear FINALS,

It’s true, finals week can be the worst. The stress, the magnitude of the tests, your GPA . . . it can leave you wanting to crawl into bed and forget everything you’ve learned this semester.

But finals are meant to do just the opposite! It’s important to keep that in mind. Those exams and essays aren’t designed (solely) to torment you. They’re opportunities to show what you know and all the ways you’ve grown as a student over the course of this semester.

What really helps is knowing how to prepare. Here are some tips to make finals week a little less stressful and more productive.

Don’t Cram
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Well . . . maybe it’s a little too late for this. But seriously, our minds are only meant to concentrate for a short(ish) amount of time. Short studying breaks are important. So important, in fact, that many experts think that the longest you should study without a break is 25 to 35 minutes. After that, studying produces diminishing returns.

Schedule Your Studying (and Your Sleep)
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One of the most stressful things about the end of the semester is time. There never seems to be enough of it! And guess what . . . there probably isn’t. That’s why it’s important to make the best use of the time you have. The first step in doing that is the make a schedule, and not just for studying.

During the busiest times of the semester, it’s helpful to make sure you have a plan for everything that you need to do. And that includes sleep! Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep and eating somewhat healthily. It won’t do you any good to put in all the work of studying if you sleep through the final or are too sick to take it.

Take a Hike (or Walk or Run or Yoga Class)
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It’s easy to let exercise slip in the run-up to finals. But physical activity is a key part of studying. Not only does it increase blood flow to your brain, it allows you to maintain your energy and take much-needed breaks from long stretches of studying.

You don’t have to be a work-out fiend for this to help. Taking short, 10-minutes walks allows you to recharge mentally while burning off nervous energy. But of course, nobody ever said a study-break push-up contest was a bad thing either.

Tell Social Media Bye
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Yes, yes, we all know that we should stay off social media when we’re prepping for finals. If only it was that easy. You take a study break, hop on whatever Book or Gram or Twitter Machine you’re using for just five minutes, and a half hour later you’re still scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. We’ve all been there. But you can use the power of social media to your advantage.

Instead of just telling yourself to stay off social media, announce your plans ON social media. Ask your friends, followers, frenemies and internet crushes to hold you accountable. If they see you lurking and liking and commenting, give them permission to call you out. Sometimes the only way to hold yourself accountable is to factor in the possibility of a little public shaming.

Break Out the Headphones
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Finally, we all know studying can be tedious. But that doesn’t mean it has to be silent. Make sure you have some music to help you maintain your attention and focus, but make sure it’s the right music. Music with lyrics can sometimes be more distracting than helpful. These seven playlists are perfect soundtracks to your academic success. And if they don’t work, there’s always Spotify’s “The Best Study Playlist Ever,” which sounds legit.

Happy studying!

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