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A Letter to the Overwhelmed College Student

Hey there,

Seeing that you're reading this means that you're overwhelmed, stressed, and probably exhausted. Well, I totally understand how you're feeling because I am in the same boat. After getting through final exam stress a few times already, I have compiled a few tips that have helped me and can help you get through all the stress a little easier.

As you know, this year dead week falls the week after Thanksgiving Break which makes it so much harder to find the motivation to finish the last weeks of the semester. It’s going to be a stressful time to finish all these last-minute projects, papers, and presentations while transitioning from break mode back to study mode. So how do you stay motivated at a time when you feel overwhelmed? How do you reduce end-of-semester stress? The amount of time you have won’t change but the way you use it can effectively change your productivity. Here are my top five tips to help you finish the semester off strong!

Make a schedule and plan ahead. With just three weeks until finals, now is the time to start thinking about how you’re going to tackle studying for your exams and finishing up those projects. Take some time to schedule out how much time you’re going to allocate for each of your classes. Start off with the hardest and most important tasks, whether that’s studying for one of your hardest classes or writing that paper that requires extensive research. Schedule your group meetings early so you have ample time to do your part and find time to meet again to make sure everything looks right. The earlier you start the less stress you will feel once finals week comes around.

Take effective breaks. Don’t cram for 10 hours straight the day before the exam. When you’re feeling productive and focused then keep the momentum going for as long as you can. Once you feel your mind wander, then it’s time to take a break. Take a short break and make sure you’re letting your mind relax. Make an effort to shift your attention. Taking breaks doesn’t mean you’re lazy and you shouldn’t feel bad for taking a 5-10 minute every hour because it actually improves productivity if you do.

Focus on one thing at a time. If you have multiple assignments due at the same time, don’t try to tackle them all at once because that will only cause more stress. Having 50 tabs open to complete 5 different assignments won’t be as productive as focusing on 1 assignment at a time. If you have one large assignment don’t feel overwhelmed and try to do it all in one go, break it up into manageable parts and create a schedule on how you’re going to complete it. By focusing on one thing at a time you are able to deeply concentrate on your task which will allow you to think strategically, critically, and creatively. All of this will provide better overall results.

Utilize your resources. Reach out if you need help and remember that it’s never too late to ask for help. Even though you’re only a couple of weeks from your final exam, asking for help on one thing is better than not knowing it at all. That one concept could be the one point that helps you get the next best grade on your final. Go to office hours, reach out to your friends, and ask your classmates! More often than not, students are willing to help each other out. We’re all going through it so just ask. Also, if you're at a family gathering or hanging out with some friends over Thanksgiving break, it wouldn't hurt to ask if they could help you with some of those concepts that you're struggling with, you never know who might be able to help you until you ask.

Don’t stress about stress. If you’re stressed about your grade in a class, stop. Change your mindset now about achieving a certain grade. Instead, take that energy to learn as much as you can and perform the best that you can. It isn’t productive to spend time stressing out about the grade. Just do what’s in your control. Time is on your side. Utilize the time you have during Thanksgiving break to catch up on material and understand concepts that you’re having trouble on. You don’t have to study every day during break, but that extra time you spend on those concepts will pay off later. I understand that Thanksgiving break is a time for you and your friends and family but if you’re traveling by plane or find yourself with some free time, this could be a good time to start looking over content for your final exams just to keep yourself in the loop during break and come back to campus with more confidence.

With all this in mind, I have no doubt that you’ll do just fine in your classes. I hope you all stay warm this winter season and good luck on finals Boilermakers!

All the best,

Antonia Loh

Fellow Overwhelmed College Student

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