10 Things Your Professors Won’t Tell You About Finals

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Nobody’s perfect. But when you’re surrounded by academic superstars and Kate Upton look-a-likes, it’s hard to accept second best. It’s even harder to admit that you need help. “Perfect is the enemy of the good,” Professor Stanton said. What a beautiful mantra for finals week. Instead of asking how students literally survive finals week again, I asked professors how students could mentally survive this week of Satan.

1.Take your default mode off email.

No one likes drafting e-mails to professors. How are you supposed to start it anyway? Hello Professor? Dear Sir or Madame? Hola chica? We’ve all been there trying to decipher cryptic text messages from that special someone– skip over that mess with your professors.

Get out of your pajamas and go to their office hours. “Often, students feel embarrassed about falling behind and are reluctant to talk about this face-to-face,” said Professor Boesky, “but half an hour in person is worth a great many uncomfortable emails.”

2. Study less. Sleep more.

Before you get too excited, no professor told me that staying in bed half-sleeping, half rewatching “Grey’s Anatomy” for the tenth time was a productive study technique. What they did said was ditch the all nighters and prioritize your sleep. “I learned that sleep deprivation serves better as a lab experiment than a study strategy,” Professor Taghian said. Did I mention she was a biology professor? Fitting as much information into your brain with little sleep can actually turn out horribly.

3. Get together with your buddies.

Professor Taghian strongly advocates for teamwork. Whether that means visiting your Professor’s or TA’s office hours, finding a tutor or studying in groups. “Studying in groups can be very helpful for students by verbalizing the material with others.” This is the easiest way to realize what info you have locked and loaded and what still boggles your brain. If you’re talking non-stop during the group review of the respiratory system but turn mute during the discussion of the immune system, then you know how to spend the next six hours of your life. The next ten will, of course, be set aside for Netflix and sleep.

4. Take it step-by-step, bro.

Thinking about the 800 things you have to do is the easiest way to give yourself a mini heart attack or to get so overwhelmed that you just decide to screw it all and take a nap. Break down your assignments into small steps that you can knock out of the park. “I like to tackle things one at a time. There’s no magic trick that helps me to do that, aside from setting aside the time, giving myself permission to study or write just that one thing, breathing deeply, and doing the best I can,”said Professor Stanton.

5. Don’t forget the basic human needs.

We all ditch the healthy food for the Ramen noodles and M&M’s during finals even though we know we shouldn’t. “Take care of yourself- this is the worst time to forget about sleep, good nutrition, and exercise,” Professor Boesky said. Finals are a monster but remember finals shouldn’t turn you into one.

6. Start studying early to stay sane.

Cumulative is one of the most dreaded words a professor can say. I dare say that word causes more riots than Occupy Wallstreet. But don’t freak out. “Learning the material should be a daily process – even spending as little as 20 minutes a day to review and then concentrating on the reading and homework for longer time blocks on the weekends,” Professor Taghian said. Over time you’ll feel more comfortable about the material. I guess understanding biology is a little more important than figuring out how Ted Mosby met his wife. Again.

7. Or… procrastinate a little.

I know what you’re thinking: procrastination is a skill you’ve perfected long ago and surely this is not good advice. But don’t blame me. These precious words came from a professor. “There are so many final assignments and projects at the end, before finals exams, that it isn’t productive to focus on exams until you have the time to do so,” said Professor Donovan-Kranz. It’s all about what works best for you.

8. Buckle up.

No matter how long the winter drags on, the end always feels too soon. “Buckle the seatbelt and get ready for a bumpy ride. Finals sneak up on us, I’m talking about both sides of the desk, and like a good ending to a story, it always feels too soon,” said Professor Donovan-Kranz. Professors are just as stressed as we are. Remember that, as terrible as it is to write about feminism in Dracula, it’s so much worse to read thirty-five essays about it. So, make your essay one your professors will be happy to read.

9. Set aside your obsession with grades.

When you look back on your college career are you going to remember each grade you got? Or are you going to remember the things you fell in love with? Yes, this is an annoying existential question for us grade obsessed junkies. But it’s true.”If you produce one or two papers in a semester that you can look back on and say, ‘Hey, that was actually pretty good,’ then you’re doing well,” said Professor Stanton. One or two assignments? Looks like we’re all doing just fine.

10. Remember S-U-C-C-E-S-S is spelled without an A.

Your professors want you to succeed. At least that’s what Professor Taghian and Donovan-Kranztried told me. “It is the greatest feeling of accomplishment for me to see my students succeed,” said Taghian. So ditch that old myth that your professor is an evil Cyclops that feeds on students’ blood, sweat and tears.

The need for the perfect grade should go right in the trash. Donovan-Kranz said, “Professors are concerned with mastery of material and skills. We don’t care what your final grade is. Well, we care, but we care more about the completion of and the success of the work.” Success is all about you. So make sure to tell your mom to start asking, “What did you learn?” not “What grade did you get?”

If all else fails, according to Professor Donovan-Kranz, “There is an ice cream shop at the bottom of campus for a reason. That reason is finals week.”

I am a sophomore at Boston College studying English with a minor in Medical Humanities. I'm crazy enough to also be premed which is why I stress eat croissants and peanut M&M's.

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