Managing End of Semester Stress
The end of the semester, with final papers and essays due, scenes or musical works to present, lab projects to finish, and reports to write, all culminating in final exams, can be a stressful time for first year students. Here are some suggestions for managing stress that you can pass on to your student. We – and probably you, too – have been giving students this advice all year. But some reminders for the end of the semester can’t hurt!
Get organized now. Make sure that you have written down, in a planner or on a calendar, all the important due dates and exam dates, especially final exam dates. Make sure you have all materials needed to complete your classes and final projects and prepare for final exams – the course readings, problem sets, review guides, etc. Review your class notes and make sure you have any handouts or other materials your professor has distributed. Make plans for getting any course materials you don’t have.
Manage your time. Make a reasonable schedule for now until the end of final exams of what you will study or work on and when. Break your work up into manageable chunks of time and vary what you’re doing – for example, two hours reading your history text, a short break, then an hour doing calculus problems and an hour reviewing French vocabulary.
Stay healthy. Make time for healthy meals and get enough sleep. Build breaks into your schedule, especially breaks that involve something active, whether that’s a gym workout or a walk around campus. Include some time for fun, but don’t let hanging out with friends or other activities take away from the time you need for studying and other work.
Start reviewing now. Start reviewing your class notes and all other course material. Review any exams or papers your professors have already returned to you. If you have fallen behind in the reading, get caught up now. Re-read any assignments that you didn’t entirely grasp when you first prepared them for class.
Get going on final papers and projects. Gather all the materials you need for final papers and projects - articles, books, or other research materials. For final papers or projects in which you must develop your own topic, start thinking about possible topics now. For assigned topics, make sure you understand what the topic means or what questions the topic requires you to answer. In either case, talk soon with your professor about the paper or project topic and how you plan to approach it.
Make use of academic resources. Take advantage of opportunities for extra help and review. In a course with a course mentor, go to the course mentor’s review sessions. Professors may also hold review sessions – go to them. Meet with a Writing Center tutor to discuss paper topics, flesh out ideas for a paper, and figure out how to organize your paper. Take a draft of your final paper to the Writing Center. You can make an appointment online. If you need tutoring, check with the Office of Academic Skills about tutoring. The Quantitative Skills Center offers assistance with calculus, statistics, or other courses that require quantitative skills.
See your professors. If you’re confused or unsure about any course material, assignment, or preparation for the final exam, see your professor as soon as possible. Professors are busier at the end of the semester, too, so your professor will probably have more time available now than later.
Ask your friends for their support. Tell your friends about your plans and your schedule for completing the semester’s work and ask them to respect your priorities. Ask them not to distract you from your work with social plans or other activities. And do the same for them.
Talk to your advisor. Meet with your advisor and ask for his or her help with setting priorities and making a schedule for the rest of the semester. Talking things over with your advisor can help put things into perspective, and your advisor will have some good ideas about how to make sure that you know what is expected of you in all of your classes.
See Counseling Services. If you’re feeling really overwhelmed or very anxious about your work at the end of the semester, you can see a counselor, who can help you with managing anxiety and will keep whatever you say in the strictest confidence. Their hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 am - noon, and 1:00 - 4:00 pm; their phone number is 410-778-7261.
Putting at least of few of these suggestions into practice now can really help reduce your stress level as you head into the end of the semester and final exams.
Interim Associate Provost for Academic Services
Assistant Dean for Academic Initiatives