What Not to Do: Finals Edition

351_how_to_flashLet us tell you a story—OK, a couple stories. Three Towson students are going to tell their tales of woe and misery of finals past. The stories and students are real, although names may have been changed to protect the innocent (or under-prepared). Take fair warning: some of these stories may be scarily close to personal experiences you may or may not share. Maybe wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket before you proceed. Make sure all the lights are on in your dorm. Now listen to these tales of horror, but don’t say we didn’t—

Finals week is one of the busiest times of the year for college students. Between studying for exams, completing final projects, preparing for presentations, and of the year celebrations with friends, it can be hard to manage it all. As a senior in college, I struggled to divide my time between studying for finals and hanging out with my friends. I was so close to graduating, but I wasn’t done just yet; I needed to pass my finals first! Unfortunately, I gave in to the distractions and spent more time with my friends during finals week than I did actually studying for my finals. As you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly prepared for my exams and didn’t do as well as I had hoped. Don’t make the same mistake as you prepare for finals week! Prioritize your time, make a schedule, and study hard for those finals. Then, reward yourself when you’re all done!

It’s that time of the semester we’ve all be dreading. Finals. And if you’re anything like me, the only thing getting you through is knowing that in 6 weeks, I’ll be binge watching Orange is the New Black on a steady diet of Watermelon, 117703606-temper-tantrumHot Dogs, and Rita’s Italian Ice. But until then, I have papers to write, tests to take, and presentations to create. And again, if you’re anything like me, it’s the paper writing that makes you to want to throw a tantrum like a three-year-old in Target who just got denied a Hulk action figure and a Snickers in the same visit. Here’s the thing, the tantrum doesn’t really get you anywhere. I’ve tried it. And all it left me with was a confused roommate and an empty box of tissues. And a paper to write. So here are a couple suggestions I have as alternatives to the tantrum.

When I sit down to write a paper, I write. I write anything that comes into my head. Full sentences, incomplete thoughts, bullet points, maybe some foul language. I just write. No structure. Just my thoughts. Then I save it, close my computer, leave it, and come back to it the next day. Yes, the “Gustavson Method” requires you to leave yourself a couples days to write a paper, so for those of you who wait until the last minute, don’t.

When it’s time to come back to the paper, I like to print out a copy and write all over it. I make those thoughts into full sentences. Move the bullet points somewhere they fit better. Take out the foul language. I run through my paper one time, fix it up, and put it away again. I do this again about one or two more times, and then I have it. I have my award winning paper.

The reason I do my papers this way is not because I like to savor the experience in bits and pieces over the course of a week. I do it this way because it is impossible to write a perfect essay on your first try. And if it’s not going to be perfect on the first try, spread it out. Take it your time with it. I’m willing to bet you’ll have some great thoughts to add between your drafts.

This is the time of year where the weather starts to get nicer, but with tfinalshat comes the most dreaded time of year, finals. Final exam time used to be an extremely stressful part of the semester for me. I would spend hours upon hours with my face glued to my text and notebooks during this time of year. No matter how much time I spend studying I always found myself second guessing my answers, especially on multiple choice tests. I would finish my test in a reasonable amount of time and then go back and check my answers to make sure I didn’t make any careless mistakes. It was during this double check that I found myself constantly second guessing and changing my answers for no good reason other than nerves. I usually found that the original answer was right a majority of the time, so I adopted a new method of answer changing. I now only change my answers if I find an error in my original selection. If I couldn’t find an error I would leave it alone. After I adopted this method I started seeing my test scores go up! The morale of the story is don’t second guess your gut unless you have found a mistake.

Please use the experiences of the students that shared their stories to learn from their mistakes so that you don’t have to make those same mistakes yourself. Don’t let yourself get distracted during your finals preparation to make sure you can perform your best. Find a paper writing method that doesn’t leave you throwing tantrums like a small child. Lastly, don’t second guess yourself when test day finally comes. You can and will get through these finals!


Jeremy Boettinger
Learning Specialist & Graduate Student, MBA

Kristy Gustavson
Graduate Assistant & Graduate Student, Clinical Psychology Major

Allison Hutchison
Learning Specialist & Graduate Student, MFA

Marissa Insinna
Graduate Assistant & Graduate Student, Speech and Language Pathology Major



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