Mosaic of Learning | How to handle finals week

Mosaic of Learning is a biweekly blog that takes a look at research and education at the University.

By Khushi Rai, Staff Writer

December usually signals a happy, Christmas-like atmosphere. Neighborhoods are filled with houses decorated in Christmas lights, stores play Christmas songs and Starbucks brings out their long-awaited holiday drinks.

But being in college this time signals exams, stress and negative feelings.

In my neuroscience class, we were learning about the body’s response to stress. This topic was extremely fitting, given we are currently experiencing finals season. My roommate made the joke, “We should do so well on this exam because it is exactly what is going on in our body right now!”

December is in fact the worst time of the year for college students. Academic demands skyrocket, the sun sets earlier and spending time outside ceases to be an option. Mental health and hygiene get put on the backburner as academic workloads start to increase, making it almost impossible to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night. The library, and every surrounding academic building, starts to house more students as they rush to cram information taught throughout the semester into their head. Since students spend the nights staying up — rushing to complete the stack of assignments due at the same time, and naturally sleep in longer the next day — the amount of time they get to spend in the daytime diminishes. Thus, intake of vitamin D reduces.

Although this season is horrible, there are some ways to alleviate some of the stress. Prior to college, I rarely utilized agendas or calendars. But I’ve found that mapping out all my assignments and test days calms down some of the anxiety. Seeing everything laid out really does show that finals season is a marathon rather than a sprint. After each successive day, I get to mark an X on my planner, proving to myself that I have made it through yet another day.

When I think or hear about meal-prepping, I automatically picture someone wearing Lululemon whose life is devoted to achieving a healthy, influencer lifestyle.  I have found that preparing your meals in advance does reduce some stress — it is one less thing in my day that I have to worry about. If I am at home, I do not have to simultaneously cook and devour loads of organic chemistry information. If I am at the library or another academic building, I do not have to worry about taking a break from studying to scour for food. Food is fuel and planning it ahead means one less hurdle.

For me, the best part of my days recently has been ending the night talking with my roommate. With exams taking over our lives, I think many students neglect their social life. While grades obviously come first, humans are inherently social creatures and when we neglect that aspect of our life, our mental health takes a toll. Rather than taking five-minute breaks in the middle of studying to scroll through TikTok, align your study schedule with a friend’s and spend your miniscule free time talking and spending time with each other. It is surprising how helpful those little conversations can be.

It is especially important for college students to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Final exam season will eventually end, and the good feelings of the Christmas season will start. While this season is not overall enjoyable, there are little things we can implement to make our atmosphere better.

Khushi writes about research, education and events taking place at Pitt. Talk to her at [email protected].