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#HonorsProblems: How to Ace Finals and Finally Relax

Peer Advisor Daniel Kassl in front of some cherry blossoms

Be not stressed about finals, dear UHPers! Heed the wise words of Peer Advisor Daniel to get you through this challenging season.

Well, here we are again. For some reason, finals season just keeps coming around at the end of each semester. Someone should really do something about that. Nonetheless, we now confront four, five, or sometimes even six final exams that disproportionately affect semester grades, challenging us to recall all sorts of random, seemingly useless information from lectures (including, often times, anecdotal vignettes during which the class fell asleep) to be employed during these long blocks of exams.

That’s one way to look at it, at least. One thing’s for sure: finals are tough. In high school, my finals were only nominally final. Rather, by the end of the semester, we all knew our grades save for those folks who aced or bombed what were called our final exams. At any university, though, we’re pressed to comprehensively demonstrate our knowledge and understanding that we acquired throughout the long semester to prove that we have mastered material. That’s quite scary, and foreign to many first-year students here at GW.

The first step in succeeding during this finals season is establishing some sort of studying regime that works for you, which includes what time of day you study, where you study (whether in Gelman, your bedroom, etc.), how you allocate time to different courses, and most importantly (believe me), how you’ll take breaks. This isn’t to say that you need a binding, notarized document with a study plan on it—even though that would probably do the trick—but rather that you should visualize some plan to which you can hold yourself accountable.

If you’re like me, studying in the morning is a non-starter, studying in Gelman cubicles causes you anxiety, and taking breaks can often interrupt your flow of thoughts. So, figure out a routine that works for you if you haven’t already, and take initiative to adhere to it. And for God’s sake—take a break and reward yourself for working so hard once in a while.

The final step involves understanding that a final exam is, in fact, final. I cannot adequately explain the frustration I’ve had five minutes after leaving an exam when I remember that I made a mistake—and now there’s nothing I can do about it. But that’s also the beauty of it—there’s nothing I can do about it! You shouldn’t worry about what you can’t control, and unless you’ve mastered telekinesis (in which case we should chat) you cannot change what you wrote in your final paper or on your exam.

At the end of the day, you’re an Honors student and are prone to pre- and post-exam anxiety like this, but I strongly encourage you to take a step back and a deep breath and understand—literally—the finality of final exams. You’ve worked diligently and tirelessly for a semester, and now you should take advantage of the holiday break to catch up on TV shows (I strongly recommend Curb Your Enthusiasm), read a non-academic book (I plan to read The Shining over break), and enjoy having much, much less to do. You deserve it.

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