Surviving Finals During a Pandemic


Some tips to help during this finals season. (Courtesy of Facebook)

As we enter the final three weeks of the semester, many of us are stressing about finals. On top of the usual stress that comes along with this time of year, there is a heightened worry since we’re taking our exams from home, which may not be the quiet, academic environment we’re used to. And to top things off, the pandemic is only getting worse.

While we may have accepted the pandemic as a “new normal,” it’s still an enormous stressor sitting in the back of our minds at all times. Take a moment to give yourself credit for coping with this situation and acknowledge that the pandemic has made this semester far more challenging for all of us.

Even with that in perspective, though, it’s understandable that we still want to do as well as we possibly can this semester. For some of us, school might actually be a distraction from everything else going on. So let’s focus on something really simple that we can do to finish the semester as smoothly as possible: figuring out what it will look like.

Start with when your finals are and what format they will be. While some professors are having online exams, many are opting for alternate assignments. Check your syllabi and write down what you have in each class and when it is due. By consolidating it all into one place, you won’t have to worry about accidentally missing something because it was in a tab that you forgot to check. While this may seem like an obvious and simple step, it’s surprisingly effective in lifting that initially daunting weight.

Once you have it all laid out, set aside where and when you will study. In a busy household, it might be challenging to find a quiet space to work. If restrictions allow, maybe you can study in your local library. If not, dedicating a specific place in your room for work will help you get in the zone and stay focused. As for planning your time, I recommend using a planner so that you can break your work up into more manageable tasks for each day. You can work off of one big list or map everything out by the hour, but use whichever method works best for you. Splitting up your work will help you avoid frantically cramming at the last minute. Plus, it’ll make those huge assignments and exams feel much less overwhelming since you’ll be working on them in smaller pieces. And reach out to your professors — if you need an extension on an assignment, don’t hesitate to ask. Your professors will likely be understanding of what you are going through and want to help.

Most importantly, though, don’t forget to schedule breaks in your plan. There is no denying that finals are stressful, and this semester might just be the most stressful one yet. Still, that only makes it more important that you take the time you need to rest and recover. While making a clear study plan will definitely relieve some of the stress, you still need time to relax and practice some self-care. Make time to do the things you enjoy in between all of the hard work you’re putting in. These don’t need to be anything complex; they can be small, miscellaneous things that you just happen to appreciate and will make you happy.

Remember that reaching out is nothing to be ashamed of. No matter how organized you may be going into finals, things happen, and that’s okay. Especially with a pandemic, it is completely understandable. Stay connected with your friends by setting up virtual hangouts or study sessions that will allow you to get your work done while also helping each other feel supported and less alone. Talk about how you’re feeling: it may help to recognize that someone else is going through the same challenges that you are. Make sure to speak to your family as well about how to make these next few weeks run as smoothly as possible in terms of both your academics and your mental well-being. If you need to, you can always reach out to your professors — they’ll likely be sympathetic and more than happy to help you. Don’t forget that, and please continue to check in with your mental health throughout this time. No matter how you do on your finals, it will not be more important than how you are doing mentally.