College Compass: Tips for surviving online finals

College Compass is a bi-weekly blog that aims to help students navigate the highs and lows of college life.

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As someone who’s lived through the technological revolution, I’m embarrassed to say that I still don’t know how to upload my phone pictures to my computer. And up until a few weeks ago, the only way I knew how to scroll on my laptop was through highlighting the entire page. By now, it’s safe for you to infer that technology is not my forte.

As you can imagine, switching to online classes for me was almost as much of a nightmare as this pandemic. I found it really challenging to learn the material and stay on top of all my assignments without any in-person direction. But whether or not you classify as a tech amateur like myself, the sporadic switch threw everyone off a little — including the tech gurus out there. 

Even if students have all the time in the world during quarantine, it can feel really difficult to stay organized in the midst of this lifestyle change. As finals approach, the task of staying focused and efficient during this hectic time seems even more daunting. Luckily, since I was technically supposed to be abroad this semester, I finished my online finals last week, so I can share a few tips for everyone preparing to take theirs. 

Get organized 

Before starting any essays or 12-hour study periods, it’s worthwhile to open Blackboard and go over all the course syllabi for the semester. In addition to making a schedule and writing down all your due dates, it’s also important to make sure there’s no extra assignments that may have been overlooked during the online transition period. 

When I was turning in my finals, I realized that I missed an extra assignment in two different courses. With only a few hours to complete those assignments, I emailed three professors and looked through every course syllabi to make sure I didn’t miss anything else in my other classes. This not only added panic and confusion to an already stressful time, but also left me very little time to salvage my grades. 

Mark your ground

It’s always important to have a consistent study location during finals week, but this time, it may not be as easy to find one. For me, living with three siblings has kept me entertained during quarantine – but not exactly studious. In fact, my biggest struggle with online school has been finding a quiet study space at home. 

So when finals week approached, I picked a secluded spot in my house and asked my family in advance to refrain from entering the area while I was working. As someone who works best in silence, I also used ear plugs to tune out my siblings as they ran around the house. While it wasn’t as ideal as Hillman’s silent fourth floor, the fully stocked kitchen upstairs made it a close second.

Get back in a routine

While I always recommend making a schedule during finals week, this time requires a little more effort. In addition to marking down which days you’ll work on what, it’s important to develop some kind of daily routine to get yourself motivated to work. The first few weeks of quarantine, I noticed myself slipping into a 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. sleep schedule. While this may have been suitable for my relaxing purposes, it prevented me from getting just about any work done.

Since I’m most productive in the morning, I forced myself to get back on a regular sleep schedule during finals week. I also developed a daily schedule that I tried to stick to for the most part. I usually worked from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., took a two-hour lunch break, did two more hours of school work and then worked out for an hour before dinner. During the evenings, I liked to take a break by watching television or having a social distance bonfire with a couple friends in my backyard. 

Even though these aren’t ideal conditions, finals week at home can actually be much more relaxing and productive if approached the right way. Without the stressful atmosphere of everyone pulling all-nighters, and the ability to create your own study environment, these finals have the potential to go much smoother than usual. Instead of viewing online school as a stressor, look at it as a way to improve your study habits and develop more of a purpose during these long empty days. 

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