Okay, we all been there: projects and papers due in a week or two. Let me guess—you just started doing them. The panic rises, and you feel unsure where to start and how to even finish in time. I know it all too well this semester; two weeks before my deadlines, three projects I needed to do were not started at all. Talk about panicking and scrambling to get it together. So, no matter if as a freshman you look for guidance before your first finals or you’re a senior, like me, who feels so done with college and just wants to survive until graduation, I want to offer some tips and tricks on what got me through my pre-final season.
Sharing my senior wisdom in three, two, one…
First of all, let me paint you a picture here. I am currently taking six classes across two majors, and five of those don’t offer final exams, but final projects. You may think, “How is that bad?” Well, these projects don’t fit into your usual PowerPoint but include things like making a whole movie, writing over the 20-page senior seminar, and putting together a complete media kit from scratch. It’s Wednesday before Thanksgiving, all my projects are due in two and a half weeks. While I did want to start my projects earlier, all of my classes gave so many assignments that I didn’t get a chance for a head start. Sounds familiar enough?
Now, what did I do? I went on a suicide mission of starting with the most challenging project I had, the over 20-page senior seminar from political science. I chose it because I had the first eight pages of it due anyway, so I thought, why not write the whole thing? I felt under the weather, but I was determined to, like Tony Stark in the first Avengers with thermo-nuclear astrophysics, become expert globalization trends reflected in the European Union overnight. The goal was to write it in 72 hours—and I did it. Unfortunately, I pushed myself so hard my regular cold turned into a fever and, of course, an added round of antibiotics.
Sometimes crunching on the assignment turns out necessary in college, but put your well-being first.
Yes, I finished it in 72 hours, but I ended up practically incapable of doing any other assignment because I got sick for the next three days. So, not the best decision. I would say yes, try to complete all your assignments to the dot. However, sometimes it can make for a better solution to submit nine and a half pages and not 10, or 18 pages instead of 20. You will lose points; however, if it turns out to be a great paper, the quality of the work matters more and most of the professors will still give you decent marks. At least, they won’t fail you. And as one of my professors said this semester, when you get recruited for a job, people will care if you graduate with a degree and won’t look at your grades.
Think about when you feel the most productive and split your final assignments into what drains most energy from you. I hate writing papers, but I can design some layouts or projects even when I am tired, lying in bed. Therefore, in my case, when I wasn’t feeling well and I possessed absolutely no will to study, I did the parts of media kits, such as designing a business card—and I designed the layout of a magazine. I still put in the work, don’t get me wrong, but it seemed easier for me to do with limited brainpower than analyzing primary sources for my paper.
Check out these tips on writing papers and maximizing your time!
Time for some tips for writing papers themselves. This semester I didn’t enjoy that my paper-based classes required me to do annotated bibliographies. I know annotated bibliographies are assigned as a pretty standard practice, but to be honest, not many of my classes required them before, and the professor kind of left us alone with it. At first, I didn’t like that I needed to write one. Still, when I actually sat down to papers, I realized that I could just paraphrase some bits of bibliography instead of going back to the source since I already summarized it in the context of my topic (if your professor doesn’t require a source page). Similarly, one of my classes required us to also submit an introduction. I just copied, pasted it, and tweaked it a little for it to fit where my research ended up going. Check with the professor if you can reuse bits of the paper you gave him/her/them as a separate assignment.
If, like me, you find yourself working on a very tight timeline, think about how you can maximize your time. For example, I realized that I do not need internet access for specific writing assignments or work on my designs in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign.
A while back, I worked on a more minor assignment on a train from Boston.
We get in-class time to work on assignments in some of my classes, so I do it if I can leave something for that time. And on Friday, the professors didn’t require cameras on, so I listened to my classmates’ presentations while cooking. If you currently scramble to finish whatever you might be doing, let’s maximize the little time that remains.
A final word of advice? Don’t look at other people, but rather think about what feels suitable for you. My friend in the senior seminar prefers to type in single-space before turning a paper in because when she turns it into double-space, she feels like she did more work. I like to type double space because I feel like I am moving from page to page faster. Some people prefer to start all of their projects simultaneously, while others prefer to do them one by one. At this point, I figured out a formula that works for me, start from the most complex project or the one due the earliest and then sit down to the most urgent ones while slowly working my way through others.
Now, some finals season wisdom from one overworked senior awaits.
I know that although we all want to be that student who finished everything the week before, it doesn’t always end up that way. Take a deep breath! I am struggling too. Not to mention your classmates’ struggle, everyone barely survives, haha. Look at me: two weeks before I didn’t start anything, now a week before, four out of five of my projects are in the finishing stages. So, you got it! Find yourself a class study buddy, split study sheets, plan out papers. Because if someone can finish a semester’s worth of work in a week, it’s college students.