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A Survival Guide to Finals Week

survival guide finals

Although Dead Week often feels like the death of our social lives, sleep schedules and healthy eating habits, I like to think of it more as a survival competition in the wild place we call college. Finals Week is a test of strength and skill, requiring us to find focus, food, and resources in order to make it out on top. 

In order to survive the challenges that come with preparing for Finals, I have put together a Finals Week Survival Kit. Learn how to properly manage your focus, eat the right foods, and also utilize your academic resources on campus.

Finding Focus

In the midst of all the chaos, it can be difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.  

  • Do Not Disturb 
    • One look at your phone and you’re immediately sucked into the endless world of texting, Facebook, and Twitter. Every time your phone lights up or vibrates, it distracts you and takes even more time to get your mind back into concentration mode. Turn it completely off or put it in “Do Not Disturb” mode to minimize distractions. 
  • Set goals and rewards
    • Challenge yourself by setting a goal. Once you reach that goal, set aside a reward for yourself. For example, tell yourself that if you finish reading the entire chapter, you can take a ten-minute Facebook break. 
  • Use your agenda 
    • Write down specific times and chapters you are going to spend studying for each subject. For example, say Monday you are going to read Chapters 1 and 2 of HIS 108 and Tuesday you will focus on MA 109 practice problems. Scheduling ahead of time makes you commit, and therefore more likely to actually study. 
  • Allocate your time
    • You don’t have to spend an equal amount on every subject. If you know some topics better than others, focus on those that need the most preparation first. Also, if you can finish your final papers before Dead Week, you will have that much more free time to really focus on studying. 
  • Get some sleep
    • I’ve always said sleeping trumps studying, simply because your memory is better when you are well rested. And, it keeps your immune system strong. Avoid all-nighters at all costs. Read more on why quality shuteye should always be a top priority here
  • Make time for the gym 
    • When you feel like you have so much to do, going to the gym seems like the last thing you can squeeze into your schedule. But, exercise helps improve the ability to remember and learn, and it relieves stress and refreshes your mind. Even a mere 20 minutes of exercising will increase blood flow, and the endorphins will help ease any anxiety you may be having. If you can’t spare even a minute, bring flashcards or a study guide to read while you’re on a bike, elliptical, or treadmill. 

Finding Food

In the same 3 minutes it takes you to heat up a hot pocket, you could pack a bag of carrots or walnuts, or heat up a can of hearty soup. It is so easy to let yourself indulge in greasy, fast food during Dead Week and Finals, but surprisingly what you consume can ultimately affect your study habits and test outcomes. Eat at regular intervals, since skipping a meal can drain your energy. When you eat, try incorporating these foods into your diet:

  • Hydrate
    • Water, agua, H2O, whatever you call it, DRINK IT! When forced to choose between an energy drink and water, always choose water. Energy drinks are packed with caffeine, sugar and sodium, which can lead to dehydration, which can then impair memory and focus. 
  • Caffeinate 
    • Coffee can help you start the day acute, focused and in a good mood, but more than 300 mg of caffeine can be detrimental to your health. Try drinking one cup of coffee in the morning. If you need help staying up later at night, resort to a less intense source of caffeine, like green tea. 
  • Eat nuts, especially walnuts
    • It just so happens that these brain-shaped nuts help brain functioning, as well. The omega 3 fatty acid found in walnuts is proven to help memory and general cognitive functioning. Pack them in a bag for some late night snacking at the library!
  • Go dark green
    • Next time you’re at a campus buffet, sprint to the salad bar and load up on spinach instead of iceberg lettuce. Due to its high folate content, it increases brain circulation. 
  • Go bananas
    • Pick a fruit, any fruit, and put it in your backpack. Fruit is easy to take on the go, and also a super-filling snack. 
  • Stay sweet
    • If you thought you would have to give up dessert, you’re wrong. Eating one square of dark chocolate that is 70% or more of cacao is actually beneficial, since it increases blood flow to the brain. 
  • Meals to go 
    • If you want something quick and easy, try a vegetable soup or frozen meal with meat or veggies. Soups or meals with lots of vegetables are fast, but also keep you full longer than a carb-packed pizza would. 

Finding Resources 

When you’re tired of studying on your own, reach out to your academic resources. Academic Enhancement is one program that offers a variety of services, such as Peer Tutoring and Individual Academic Consultations. There are also fun campus events, like Cram Jam!

  • Free Peer Tutoring 
    • Tutoring is available six days a week at The Study, so you can drop in, ask questions and prepare for your exams with help from our tutors. You can also take advantage of Common Hour Exam Prep, where we will have extra tutors on hand for specific subjects. The Common Hour Exam Prep schedule can be found at uky.edu/ae. The Study will close the Wednesday of Finals Week, though. 
  • Individual Academic Consultations
    • If you are looking for individualized help, Individual Academic Consultations (IACs) give you the chance to talk one-on-one with a learning specialist about any school-related issue. Topics include time management, stress, exam prep and many more. You can schedule an IAC through your myUK portal.     
  • Cram Jam
    • On Thursday, May 1 from 5 to 8 p.m., UK Student Government will be hosting Cram Jam in Memorial Coliseum. There will be lots of free giveaways, food, and The Study will have its own table (featuring some awesome new tank tops). It’s a great way to refuel and give your mind a break!

Surviving Dead Week isn’t as hard as it seems, if you know the right survival tricks and the resources you have at hand. Take this Finals Survivals Kit, and use it wisely. Come Finals Week, you’ll be thankful that you did!