It’s that time of year again! If there is one thing I could single out that I was the least prepared for coming into college, it was a comprehensive final (let alone having multiple within the same week and sometimes even on the same day). As students are starting to take finals, and as I am coming off of taking a final a month ago, I wanted to shed light on some mistakes I have made. I was originally going to post some tips on how to do finals well. Honestly, I am not your guy for that. I am still trying to figure out how to do that well. So, I figured I can better give you a list of mistakes I made, so that maybe you can learn from my mistakes.
1. Cramming is the WORST It’s dead-day the Friday before finals begin, you have no classes and your first final is not until Monday. What do you do? Cram, that’s what I do more often than I should. I end up blowing off a few days and only start studying the night before. I know there are some people out there that can do this well, but, even if you cram well, you forget it quickly. I know every time I try and cram I can only dedicate a few hours to it. What I have learned is that the classes that I spend even just an hour at the end of the week reading over my notes for are the ones where my finals score increases. Also cramming usually leads to “pulling an all-nighter”. I personally never stayed up the entire night to study, but I have definitely stayed up so late that I got very little sleep before a final. I found it nearly impossible to focus, and it was entirely more difficult to remember anything. Get sleep and be well-rested for your test so you are sharp and ready to go.
2. Watching TV while I study What! But, Talon just the other day you were studying writing papers with the TV on? Yes, I tend to like to have something on in the background while I study or write papers. Normally though, I put on something I have seen so many times I don’t need to hear it or pay attention. But when it comes to studying for a final, don’t do it.
I like to procrastinate, and studying is difficult because it is not an assignment. There are no deadlines for studying apart from you knowing it enough to take the test. I tend to get it into my head after reading through notes a few times. Then I get to the test and know nothing.
3. Hang out or grab food with friends (who are done with their finals) This is a difficult one. But, if you're not the most self-disciplined person like me, then this is needed. In college, I spent more time enjoying the social life than studying, and even more so in finals. When you hang out or grab a meal with a friend that is done with their finals, they tend to not be as conscious of your time. Even if they understand you need to study, it is the first thing on their mind. This means your meals last 2 hrs instead of 1. It is still good to take a study break, but make sure you are aware of your time.
4. Not making a schedule This little nugget of wisdom applies to all areas. I never made a schedule, I just remembered everything, or so I thought. When I didn’t make a schedule of when I would study or when I would eat or when I would take a break, I would end up spending less time studying and more time doing things that I enjoyed. Also, by not making a schedule, I once missed a final. There are not many more gut-wrenching feelings than being in the middle of eating dinner and realizing your final that you thought was tomorrow was actually earlier that morning and you missed it. Learn from me - make a schedule.
5. Not taking them seriously Yep, this is me. I rarely took finals seriously. I always underestimated how difficult they would be, and I would always just treat them like any other test. In high school, I never studied for a test. I don’t know how to study, even in college I did not study much for tests. And for finals, I just treated them the same. I learned by my junior year that finals are insanely difficult, and they can affect your GPA or whether you pass a class or not.
6. Taking them too seriously Now that I am in seminary pursuing a Masters, I have taken my finals too seriously. Is there such a thing as being too prepared? There can be. What a waste of time if you neglect family, friends, and your faith because you have to spend every waking minute studying. Been there, got to the test, and I did well on it for sure, but I also realized I probably knew everything I needed to a day before taking it. Strained relationships will last me longer than whether or not I got an A on the final.
7. Neglecting my spiritual life
“Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things,” - C.S. Lewis
We are followers of Jesus Christ first and students second. In college it was easy to skip church on Sunday to get that extra 2 hours of studying in for Monday’s final. It was easy to neglect prayer or just pray selfishly. I know those weeks that I neglected spiritual disciplines of reading, praying, and worshipping with believers were difficult. I needed to be reminded of God’s glory and God’s grace. I hope that you can learn from my mistakes, and I know that there are plenty of other mistakes that are made and you will make during finals. I just hope to give you a head start on what I have learned from some of them. I want to leave you with this hope in Jesus Christ:
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” - John 1:16-17