Most high school and college students agree that the end of the semester is the most stressful time of the school year. Not only are students preparing for finals, but they are also finishing papers, managing group projects and thinking about what they need to do in the summer months ahead. With some strategizing and planning, students can reduce their levels of stress.
Plan. Teens are notorious for spur of the moment plans. Using social media, they can gather a group for dinner or a movie in no time. Planning ahead is not nearly as entrenched in teens as it is in people who are not digital natives. They should be using a calendar to block out study time for each subject. Creating a calendar will help them distribute their time effectively and provide a sense of control over their responsibilities. Looking at the entire study plan on a calendar also helps a teen visualize the time available and how best to distribute study time for all subjects. Studying over time is generally much more effective than last minute cramming.
Prioritize. It’s a mistake to think that all subjects require the same amount of study time. More challenging subjects likely will require more time. Easier subjects may merely require some review. Group projects can best be broken down by individual interests and skills with one person taking responsibility for coordinating it all. Group project time should be entered into the master calendar and mutually agreed upon meeting times given priority over other events. Papers should be broken into manageable parts, from research to brainstorming, to outlining. If a student is stuck on an introduction or conclusion, there’s nothing wrong with starting in the middle. Often the beginning or end will become apparent as the student is writing. For many students, the SQ4R method helps improve both retention and grades.
Take breaks. Taking breaks, getting outdoors, eating a snack, playing a video game, or chatting with friends will help reduce the tension. Physical activity and meditation are great stress reducers. A good night’s sleep is necessary for energy and focus. Sleep helps build cognitive ability and helps solidify memory.
Finally. Keep perspective. Avoid caffeine or energy drink overload before a final. Keep routines as close to normal immediately before a final exam. Sit down and take several calming breaths before beginning a test. Students who have been attending class and doing their work all semester are likely better prepared then they think they are. Whatever happens, students need to remember that it’s just a test and someday they likely won’t remember the reason they were so stressed about it.