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Students are diligently preparing for their upcoming final exams and deadlines during the University study period.

December 5, 2021

Study Period Before Final Exams: Testing Students’ Ability to Balance Their Work

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As classes wrap up this Tuesday, students are preparing for finals –– but not right away. Prior to the pre-exam pencil sharpening and deep breaths, come three days of a “study period” from Wednesday, Dec. 8 to Friday, Dec. 10. 

With libraries open and office hours back in person, students are once again crowding into study spaces on campus. With a sudden lack of structure for many students following a busy semester, they will be tested with the promise of free time before their actual exams.

“In my head, I plan on being up at 8 a.m., getting a coffee and not leaving the library all day. It always ends up not being that intense,” said Camille van der Watt ’24. Learning from prior exam periods, van der Watt has now adopted the practice of using apps like Forest that utilize the Pomodoro method -– working in cycles of studying for two hours without the distraction of her phone, and then taking twenty minute breaks.

Sarah Kanuk ’25 plans on spending much of her time reviewing material at Crossings Café in Toni Morrison Hall, but taking breaks to head down to the gym when she feels she cannot focus and having restful evenings with her friends.

“I think that the University really encourages diversity of interest, but I don’t think that it comes from a wellness perspective,”  Kanuk said. “It’s more of a personal decision to mindfully do nothing or to do something healing and that creates personal balance.”

Despite pressure from final exams and projects, recent University messages and programming have discussed student wellbeing. An email from Ryan Lombardi, Vice President for Student and Campus Life, to the student body encourages students to “get together with friends for a meal, participate in campus events and stay active” during these days before the exam period.

The Tatkon Center for First-Year Students is placing emphasis on balance,offering both peer-tutoring and “de-stressor” activities like origami and puzzles throughout the study period.

These types of in-person programming represent a departure from the largely remote or isolated study environments of the 2020-2021 academic year. 

van der Watt mentioned that last semester’s COVID restrictions impacted her studying habits during this in-between period before finals. Due to the reservation system needed to work at libraries, she notes that “It was incredibly difficult to get into the libraries, so we ended up staying in our rooms a lot, making it much harder to be productive.”

Tori DiStefano ’23 also values setting distinct boundaries during her finals period, despite not having any exams. 

“I was never a big library go-er before this year, but it’s been nice to have a place to disconnect school and personal life,” she said.

Because her course load is largely centered around independent study and final projects she’s found that she has even more freedom than usual to define her schedule, centering around her personal work habits.

“I focus a lot around meals: between breakfast and lunch, I get stuff done around the house and go to the gym; between lunch and dinner, I do my work because that’s when I typically have the most energy; and after dinner, I try to relax,” said DiStefano.

Just as DiStefano plans on centering her schedule around her productivity patterns, Kanuk notes that she goes about her studying via a similarly personalized model. With three full days to study and complete her final assignments, she plans to distribute the work according to how she’s feeling. 

“When I feel like being creative, I’ll be working on a project. When I feel like sitting down to test my knowledge, I’ll do a practice exam,” says Kanuk.

With different forms of final assessment –– whether it be online quizzes, typical in-person exams, essays or presentations –– alongside different exam schedules and unique study methods, there is surely no one-size-fits-all approach to study days.