Letters to Freshmen: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Finals week in my freshman fall was, to put it mildly, a disaster. But it’s okay because it was a primarily hilarious disaster, and I learned a lot of lessons from my mistakes. I still don’t know the ultimate recipe for success during finals week, but I do know some of what not to do, and I can pass some of my more idiotic moments on as lessons for you. Here are a few tips: 1. Just because the library is open 24 hours does not mean you need to be there 24 hours a day.

Somehow the library being open for this many hours almost seems like a challenge, where you have to prove you have enough work and you're taking hard enough classes to stay there all night and study. I'm guilty of this, and I'll be the first to tell you that this is ridiculous. If you have to pull an all-nighter, pull an all-nighter. But don't stay up all night just because you can and you aren't going to be kicked out by that terrifyingly loud library buzzer. There are some pretty embarrassing consequences to spending too much time in the library; last year the barista at the library cafe told me to "get out more."

2. Sleep.

Finals week is not a competition for who can be most sleep-deprived. Even if it were, who wants to win that competition? Seriously, there's nothing worse than staying up late studying for days and then wasting it by being exhausted and confused during your exam.

3. Take study breaks

And by study breaks I mean honest-to-god-get-out-of-your-chair breaks. I don't mean fifteen minutes of Facebook time in between textbook chapters. I mean go exercise, walk to the village—do something that doesn't involve staring at a screen or reading a textbook. It's so easy to think, "Oh I don't have time to do anything but I need a break, I'll just watch that new episode of Parks and Rec and then get back to studying. That's all fun and games until you stand up to go home later that night and realize you haven't left your spot in about fifteen hours. If you do this for the entire week of finals week your brain will literally melt and dribble out of your ears. (That's a scientific fact.)

4. Don't go to Casemas in your sweatpants. Just don't.

5. Don't eat a big meal right before going into a final. Two words: food coma.

6. But do eat!

It's tempting, and even easy, to eat like a crazy person during finals week. You go to the library in the morning and get coffee, and then before you know it, it's 7 p.m. and you've had nothing but potato chips and dirty chai tea lattes all day. (I have a terrible love/hate relationship with the library cafe.) This is in the same vein as taking study breaks; try to keep up a normal eating schedule and eat relatively normal things. You will be saner and feel better at the end of the week. Eat things that will help you study, not hurt you. Frary has fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning, which should help your immune system survive the Finals Week Plague.

7.  Don't listen to music with lyrics.

I love listening to music. Especially while studying in public; it makes it easier for me to forget there are other people around and focus on my own work. But recently studies have come out saying that it's not good to listen to music with lyrics when you are trying to learn or remember something or perform a task, particularly one that is new to you. (There's a lot of disagreement over whether classical music is good or bad for studying.) Obviously this varies for everyone; if you know that listening to Britney Spears helps you remember the determinants of demand, go for it. But I've had a couple frustrating instances of listening to music while reading a textbook and realizing that I'm reciting lyrics in my head instead of memorizing irregular Spanish conjugations.

There you go. You're seven steps closer to surviving finals week with your sanity intact, though I can't promise total success. Best of luck!