There’s one thing that students, no matter where they are, in class or online, have in common: finals week. Whether you’re pulling together final presentations, writing up big papers, or cramming for exams, the stress of the final week of class doesn’t evaporate just because you’re not coming to campus. How do you prepare to tackle those last few days of class before you get to enjoy the well-earned freedom of break? Here are some tips and tools to help online students get through your finals with flying colors.
Don’t forget to sleep. Ideally, you won’t have to pull an all-nighter to get all of your work done before the deadlines you’re facing this week. Not only is this stressful, it’s actually counterproductive. Studies show that the more tired you are the more difficulty you’ll have in retaining and recalling information. So make sure you’re getting as much rest as possible if you want to be sharp and ready to ace that test.
Know your schedule. Make sure you know ahead of time what your finals schedule will be. Some online courses do require you to travel to campus for presentations, exams and other forms of assessment, so know where you need to be and when so you can plan on being away from work and having the transportation and time to get there.
Ask questions ASAP. Not clear on a concept? Need some last-minute feedback? Your instructors are just as busy as you are this week, so if you need to ask a question, don’t wait until the last minute. Instead, email or message your professor as soon as you can to ensure that you’ll get an answer back in time to help you. The same goes for any tutoring or academic advising you may need: earlier is better.
Secure your technology and Internet access. Because you may be submitting assignments, taking exams, or even presenting online, you must ensure that you have a reliable Internet connection and computer this week. If you’re worried about yours–or even if you’re not–it’s key to have a backup plan in place so that you can still complete your final work on time.
Take a walk. Studying can be stressful, but if you need a break take some time away to walk or do other exercise. Exercise is a great way to boost blood flow to the brain and can improve your concentration and your mood while you’re working. Even better, it gives you a chance to get away from your computer screen, which can help with eye strain and leave you feeling more refreshed when you return.
Get organized. Some of your finals may be open book or open note. To get the biggest benefit from this privilege, get yourself organized ahead of time. This means pulling together all of your notes and maybe even condensing them into the most important ideas or themes. Whatever works for you, but make sure you have the information structured in a way that lets you find it quickly so you’ll have more time to craft your answers instead of hunting through stacks of loose papers for what you need.
Snack smart while studying. All snacks are not created equal—some have been proven to give your brain a boost. You can find a list here, but generally, stay away from carby and sweet foods, they won’t give you what you need to get through an intense study session. And always eat before a test or exam, too! There’s nothing worse than trying to concentrate when your stomach is growling and all you can think about is food.
Shut down all distractions. Silence your social media accounts, your phone, and any other distractions that might make studying less successful. You need to focus right now. You can check in with your personal life during a break in your studies.
Create a study space. If you don’t already have a dedicated study space, now is the time to get one set up. You’ll need a quiet place to concentrate and, if you have to take online exams or give online presentations, where you can get away from any possible interruptions.
Take advantage of tech. There are hundreds of apps and websites out there that provide helpful study tools, from flashcards to study groups. You can use these to study on your own or to connect with your classmates digitally so you can study together. Either way, make use of any tools that can help you study smarter, not harder.
Finally, take a deep breath and relax. Before you know the stress of finals will all be over and you’ll be relaxing (or at the very least have less to do) on break!