Finals time is upon us, and consequently, stress is running high. All the hard work that has been put into school all year long is finally coming to a close, and our students (and their families too) are putting in that last big push before the bliss of summer vacation. Finals can be draining both mentally and physically, so having helpful tools to preserve energy and maximize efficiency are critical to optimizing our student’s success during this time.
As you help your student approach finals week(s), consider the following strategies to help them make this a productive and successful process:
1. Create a study schedule
Each class will require different final projects or tests. Sit down with your student and help them organize what needs to be finalized for each class. Create a timeline according to what needs to be completed and/or studied so that they can visualize their priorities and create actionable next steps for ticking off each box. Be sure to build in time for breaks, sleep, and healthy meal-time as well!
2. Get sleep
As our to-do lists get longer, we may feel the need to work in overdrive. And when we begin to feel stressed about all we have to accomplish, sleep often gets short-changed. However, there is no better ammo to efficiency than being well rested. Both our body and our brains require rest and recharge. If we are running on empty, we simply won’t get these important tasks done properly.
Similar to sleep, we need to build in time for self-care, including exercise and movement. This is especially true for our athletic students whose bodies are accustomed to regular activity. Even if the length of time is reduced, it’s important to get up and moving. It’ll help with reducing stress levels and improving energy and focus.
4. Eat well
Our bodies are engines. If we aren’t feeding it well, it won’t function well. That’s true every day of the year, but even more so when we are needing it to be in optimal condition. Take some time on the weekend or in the morning to plan out healthy snacks and meals. Prioritize hydration and brain-healthy foods like nuts, seeds, fish, and berries. After all, no one has time to be sick. This is especially true during finals; so be sure to take these extra precautions to stay healthy and well!
5. Be picky about where you study
Choose a location that will help your student stay focused without distractions. We’ve found it helpful to have a designated area that is specific to studying. Avoid places like studying on a bed or in a loud room where other family members might be doing other things. Perhaps opting for an off-site location like a library or quiet coffee shop might work well for your student too.
6. Form a study group
If your student is a group-oriented learner, suggest they organize a study group with fellow classmates. Encourage them to attend review sessions. Especially in relation to the courses that may be a challenge to your student, it can be helpful to hear others asking questions or talking about particular pieces of the study material. Also, help them to schedule time with their teachers to ask more questions if they need additional help!
7. Start studying early
It can be challenging to start studying early when we are already so busy, but the earlier we begin planning for finals season, the better prepared we are to tackle it. This is especially true for projects or tasks that may be more difficult. Stay organized and build in the time to start your prep early. That will reduce the added stress and frantic pace of an already hectic time.
8. Test yourself or teach others
Show your student old study tricks like using index cards or other similar strategies that are helpful for testing themselves. Maybe you even help them prepare a “mock” exam for them to test their knowledge and skills on a particular topic. Another great learning strategy is encouraging them to teach someone else about what they’ve learned. If there isn’t a fellow student available, perhaps they can teach you instead. This is another opportunity for you to ask them probing questions that will help them think more critically about the subject.
9. Make it fun
Studying is already a slog, and it’s not uncommon for your student to dread this process. Try to make it as fun as possible to keep your teen encouraged, interested and motivated. Whether you are assisting them to make mock exams, holding a study session where they are teaching the family, or helping them to apply their knowledge in real-life ways (i.e. helping with accounting, doing science experiments to implement knowledge), think outside of the box to help make studying something your student looks forward to.
10. Fill in the dead space
Small moments during the day (i.e. eating breakfast, riding on the bus) can be opportunities to review flash cards. Even if your student doesn’t have a full, two hour block to study, that doesn’t mean they can’t fit in some review during these slower moments. Encourage them to make the most of these times to help reinforce understanding and learn throughout the day. They are likely to retain more information that way too.
Just remember, as intense as these last few weeks of school might feel, they’ll be over quickly. Take each task one step at a time, and remember the human essentials: breathe, sleep, eat well and take breaks. A healthy and invigorated student is likely to be the most successful one too.