Avoiding the Finals Crash

a cartoon of a man collapsed at a desk

used with permission from cuatower some rights reserved

Ask most students, and a majority will agree that there is little to no sleeping during Finals week. This is not unique to any major, degree, or institution. It is pretty much accepted that during finals and possibly even the week before that students will not get adequate sleep.

While many can understand why this happens, you may be surprised to discover that this doesn’t need to happen nor is it at all beneficial. From personal experience, I can tell you that the correlation between sleep and grades on exams is often positive. There are some exceptions to this rule of course (like if you take this so seriously that you decide to sleep instead of studying), but if used rationally, this advice can help you do better than you might have done.

How does this work? First of all, if you are like most others who don’t get adequate sleep during testing, you may agree with me that you cannot concentrate as well during the tests as you would if you had slept. In fact, studies have shown that driving without sleep is even more dangerous than driving while inebriated (though I’m not advocating for that either) because of delayed reaction times as well as the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. When you are taking exams that are timed, it is really detrimental to be sleepy because your concentration level is not what it should be. The same questions that you may be able to answer in one/two minutes may take you five minutes.

How about when you have an essay or short answer final. These often require that you hand-write your responses. How many people can write as legibly when they’re half asleep? I know that when I try to take notes or write a paper while asleep, I end up with some gobblygoop or ____________ on the paper. I’ve had professors who say that they won’t grade illegible papers. That can mean an automatic zero!

Of course, another thing you need to be worried about is the coffee or other drinks that you are consuming to allow your body to stay awake an unnatural amount of hours. Caffeinated beverages like Red Bull, Coffee, Five Hour Energy, Coca Cola cause other responses besides keeping you awake. Caffeine is a stimulant drug (in the same class as cocaine). Other effects that you can have when taken in high “dosages” can be anxiety and palpitations. I have seen students fail exams because of nervousness after drinking too much espresso. Also, these drinks act as diuretics causing increase urine production. How are you going to take and or finish an exam if you need to use the restroom multiple times throughout the test?

The good thing about these issues is that they are easily manageable. Make sure to sleep before your exams. While seven hours would be ideal, realistically that might not be possible. Aim for a minimum of six hours of sleep before an exam. If you work a night shift, try to get the night before the exam off if you will not be able to sleep between your shift and the exams. Don’t drink too many caffeinated beverages. Sometimes cold water may be adequate to keep you up without causing adverse effects of caffeine.

I know that you’ll do great, just avoid a crash landing!

Lose the Weight

I know what you think. Even though many of us students have gained weight over the past few semesters, I won’t be preaching about the importance of losing that extra bulge I have enough that I need to lose myself. (Also, in most cases those who need to lose weight wouldn’t realize that I was talking to them, and those girls whose BMIs are close to a scary 15 will think that I am telling them to lose even more.) I’m talking about the weight outside yourbody that you carry with you all the time. And while many don’t know this, that heavy load in your back is apt to hurt you just as much, although in different ways, as the extra layer of blubber that you carry around your waist.

My first semester of college, I bought myself a nice suede bag. I felt that since I am an adult I shouldn’t be using a backpack. Of course, I made sure that the bag was roomy enough for at least two textbooks, a laptop, a looseleaf, notebooks, my planner, lunch. Basically it was a suitcase that I could carry on my one shoulder. However this is even worse because at the rate of what I was putting in to it, I would probably have to pay an overweight fee. I’m sure that at least the ladies reading this know that there is a law regarding handbags. The size of the handbag you carry, is always directly proportional to the things that you will NEED to carry.

By the end of that semester, I realized that something had to be done. The first thing that I did was purchase a more reasonably sized bag. However, there were still some things that I had to bring. I’m one of those students who comes to class prepared. I cannot quite understand those students who show up to class with one piece of paper and not even a pen. How do they plan on writing on that paper? However, by the end of that semester, I also realized that most classes won’t use the textbooks in class. I finally got packing my bag down pat.

The next semester I was thrown a wrench. Not only did my professor want us to bring our books, it was the heaviest book of the program that she wanted us to bring. All of the sudden, I started seeing the tablets, Nooks, Kindles, iPads… in class. Right away that jumped to the top of my school supplies “wishlist”.

I just got a Nook after all this time. It is a miracle. Finally I don’t feel like I’m falling over from the weight. I can actually exercise on my way to school.

If you’d like your schoolbag to join mine on its diet, let me know. I’m sure my bag would love to give your’s some support!