Students weigh in on dealing with final exam stress

"Most of my finals are working on a big project instead of a big test on that one day so it's easy to do a little bit of the project every day and not really stress about it."

Amy Reinhardt

With Thanksgiving Break less than a week away, Washburn students have one thing looming in the back of their minds: final exams. For most, these next few weeks will prove to be the most stressful part of the fall semester.

Although feelings of preparation differ from student to student, it can be noted that everyone is starting to feel the pressure of concluding the semester successfully. Students are also in search of ways to motivate themselves to achieve that success. 

“I’m finding motivation in this final stretch partially because my fraternity holds grades in a high regard,” said Hunter Kee, junior nursing major. “My primary source [of motivation] is that I was accepted into the Washburn nursing program, so I really want to end this semester on a high note.”

Students have different methods of preparing themselves for finals week. Kee gets a head start by organizing all his class notes and PowerPoint presentations.

“In my opinion, the best way to shave off the pressure is by being proactive, getting organized and meeting with professors if I’m struggling,” Kee said.

While being proactive is ideal, it can be a challenge for students who have other commitments in addition to their class schedule.

Kaitlyn Truesdell, senior marketing and management major, struggles to maintain motivation with her competing 20-hour work schedule, 15 credit hours and social life.

“Although I love everything I do, I’m definitely trying to keep myself focused and motivated to complete the semester strong,” Truesdell said.

Stress, although healthy in small amounts, tends to consume the lives of college students during this time of the year. 

“Stress is an ugly beast that can control your life, but you just have to manage your emotions and your time,” Truesdell said. “I’ve had a bad semester before where stress broke me down, but if you stay positive, I believe you can maintain your stress at a healthy level.”

Fortunately, Washburn University sponsors Success Week, which occurs the week before scheduled finals. This year’s Success Week will take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 with final exams beginning Dec. 5.

This pre-finals week is dedicated to allowing students additional study time. Professors are recommended not to administer any new material to students, but instead utilize this time to review exam-based material in class.

“I think it’s good that they are trying to provide us opportunities to de-stress and study,” said Emily Vitt, freshman pre-pharmacy major.

Unfortunately, there are some Washburn professors who do not follow the “Success Week” principle guidelines.

“Many of my professors lecture right up to the last possible day,” Kee said. “As it stands right now, Success Week is just another week in many of my classes.”

Even outside of Success Week, the majority of professors work hard to equip their students with the necessary tools to perform well on their finals.

Jim Martin, accounting professor, eases his students’ anxiety by conducting review sessions and providing a study guide for his larger classes. He also extends his office hours to meet with students one–on-one.

Martin recommends that if a student is having difficulties with a course, now would be an opportune time to address the issue with the professor.

“You definitely want the professor’s input and you want the professor to be able to associate a name and a face at the end of the semester,” Martin said.

For some courses, the final may consist of a major project, presentation or test. For others, there’s likely to be a cumulative final, which covers the entire semester’s course content.   

“Naturally, cumulative finals scare me because I always fear that I’ll overlook something important or completely forget something,” Truesdell said.

In regards to cumulative finals, Kevin Charlwood, professor and chair of the mathematics and statistics department, said that it is important for students to be properly prepared.

“If you have two or more final exams, it’s important to set yourself a study schedule so you can be prepared for each exam as they arise during finals week,” Charlwood said. “It’s also good to spend some time studying each day on each subject, so you can stay fresh with the material.”

Whether you choose be proactive or to procrastinate, it is important to realize that rest is the key to success rather than all-nighters consisting of massive caffeine consumption, which hinders proper sleep and focus.  

“Although you may be tired at semester’s end, remember that in many classes, final exam performance can be make-or-break,” Charlwood said.