Your palms are sweating, your blood pressure skyrockets, your eyes are like dusty, dried-out rubbery balls, and you feel utterly exhausted… Yes, it’s Finals Week!!! For those at UND in the Aerospace program, this boils down to the most important week of the semester – your ability to perform well on a test determines if you pass ground school. In addition, many students are preparing for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exams both on paper and in the aircraft (aka, check rides). However, I have experienced and seen what the stress of Finals week and preparing for check rides can do to people. Today, I’ll cover some tips for keeping your sanity during that last week of the semester.
Organize, Organize, Organize…
Grab a pen. Now grab a sticky note. Now, write your to-do list! I’m a nerd and I looovveeee to-do lists! It’s not uncommon to open my day-planner and find sticky notes, exam dates, work shifts, and other miscellaneous items penned and penciled in. I generally have a really busy schedule and I’d be lost without the lists. Take my advice and make a simple to-do list of what you need to accomplish.
For instance, last week I was handed a final project less than one week before it was due. I admit I was rather irked that the professor waited so long to hand it out and said it wouldn’t take that long. This project was very similar to what we had been working on in groups during the semester as part of a pitch to a local business. It was anything but short and it combined everything we had been studying the whole semester boiled down into a report. However, I set aside time each day after each class to sit down and work on it. I also created a list of what I needed to accomplish every day to keep the project on track. I had a deadline to finish it this last weekend which I was able to meet with a day to spare! Pssssstttt: Lists do really work! In addition, it’s given me the time to focus on the exams I needed to study for and other things (like writing this post)!
Remember, take out a pen, grab a sticky note, and write down what you need to accomplish for just today. It’s not horrible, I promise… Unlike that comprehensive final… That’s horrible…
Study, Study, Study…
Now that we’ve got our to-do list, let’s get cracking! Sit down and pull out your textbook. Yes, I’m talking about that book you haven’t cracked all semester. Let’s face it: we’re all guilty of not always keeping up with our reading during the semester. Now’s the time to make up for it, am I right??? Book in hand, you make your way to your favorite chair to read about the time value of money, stalls versus spins, and the judgement model from Human Factors. Sounds gripping, right? If you find yourself nodding off, it’s time to change your study style.
First, set a timer. No, we’re not baking a pie, but rather your brain. It’s hard enough sitting through a lecture, so why not approaching studying the same way? Try 30 minutes on, and 10 minutes off. 30 minutes of intense study on a particular subject like outlining the difference between stalls and spins. Then when the timer goes off, spend 10 minutes on a break by checking your email, phone, etc., or watching a YouTube video. It’s good to give your brain a break, so why not do something fun in the meantime?
Now, back to the book! I know reading can be a little bit dry. Let’s face it: sometimes I can’t believe how many words can be used to write the same thing over and over again. However, try switching it up a little with some off-the-wall alternatives.
For instance, they say you have learned something well when you can teach it to someone else. Grab your roommate, your friend, your cat, and your dog! Prepare your “lesson plan”, and then teach away! You’ll find it’s similar to public speaking in that the more you work at it, the easier it is to memorize. Or, take a piece of paper and some color pens and diagram a lecture on one side. Draw pictures, arrows, boxes, or relate each concept to a personal experience. When we give concepts meaning (aka, semantics), our brains are able commit those to long-term memory easier.
I’ll bet you’ll be able to remember this post the next time finals comes around, huh???
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep….
I save the best for last – SLEEP!!! Those golden hours, those dreamy dreams, or those hours of terror about whether or not you’ll pass ground school.
Studies show that pulling all-nighters really don’t help you do better on that final the next morning, so start sleeping smarter. Cut off studying for an hour or two before bed. Burn a candle, take a shower, and take it easy. Give yourself time to unwind and relax – after all, you’ve earned it!
I suggest grabbing a book, or watching your favorite movie or TV show. This will help you forget about studying and all you have to do for a while. Be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep, especially before that comprehensive final tomorrow. You won’t be any good if you’re nodding off while the teacher is passing out tests, or even worse, on final approach for 35 Left!
Need I say more???
When You Realize You’re Finally Free (ha ha, see what I did there?)!
You’ve organized, you’ve studied, and you’ve slept! You did it!! You survived Finals Week!!! You crawled out of class on your knees, drained, exhausted, skinny, hungry, and crawled home to sleep off that last exam. Just remember, Christmas is around the corner and it’s time to enjoy your hard-earned rest.
Now, go fly a plane!