Dead Week: A Survival Guide

Hey guys, I’ve got a big week coming up: Dead Week. Dead week is the week before Finals Week, and guess which lucky lady has FIVE finals this semester? You guessed it. “College is the best experience you’ll ever have,” they said.

For those of you who don’t quite understand what “dead week” is, I really can’t spoil it for everyone else. “Dead week” is something you really just have to figure out on your own (like all freshman in their first semester of college). Trust me, even I found out the hard way. All I will say about dead week is that the title that it has been given is most accurate. The experience of one’s first dead week is simpy one of a kind, and I don’t want to ruin that for anyone!

In celebration of the week to come, I would like to take a moment—before I get lost in the midst of studying and chaos—to share some advice to prep for finals. Finals can be incredibly stressful, whether it is your first time or your last. That being said, I would like to shed some light:

The first thing you should do is determining where you stand presently. How are your grades right now? I tend to keep up with my grade percentages on a monthly basis (on an Excel spreadsheet) to catch any mistakes, and to know where I stand. To do this, at the beginning of the year, I create one giant Excel spreadsheet that calculates all the percentages for each assignment based on the grading scale on the syllabus. Of course, I know that is tedious and a little bit something only I would do, but I still believe that knowing where you stand effectively improves your performance. If you know you need to perform better, you likely will. If you know you are in good standing, then you can take a breath (only for a moment!).

A less tedious way to figure where you stand in a particular class is to simply contact your professor or teacher. They’ve got the grades somewhere, and they know exactly how to calculate them. Doing this helps in two ways: 1. it allows you to know where you stand exactly, and 2. it give the impression that you are generally concerned about your performance. It’s a win-win situation—you can’t beat that.

After figuring where you stand, most of us would assume to jump right in to studying. That is the most obvious way to improve your chances on the final, right? Well, of course, but one must take into account that you can’t just “start studying.” It doesn’t really work like that, especially when you have so much material, so many classes, and so little time. You tend to just sit there and stare at the overwhelming stacks of notes and textbooks…Where do I even start? 

So first, you really need to get your priorities straightened out (which is why knowing where you stand helps a lot). Which classes do you need to work on the most? How can you find the time for all this studying?

This next step requires a lot of organization—which is something you will desperately need to acquire to make it through anything. You need to organize the way you study. It sounds silly, but it is oh so necessary. You need to take that list of priorities and allot time contributed solely for studying. Personally, I like to break up cumulative material over a span of two weeks so that I am never overwhelmed. I also tend to prioritize the subjects that are more challenging—I might dedicate more time for Chemistry than I would for Psychology. I also make sure to plan according to my schedule, and which final comes first. This has been an effective strategy for many reasons:

This not only helps to keep you focused (because you actually know what you are doing…not just vaguely “studying”), but it keeps you accountable. You are more likely to stick to studying when you have a list of things to complete hanging over your head and when you know exactly what you are doing.

Now, let’s refer back to the list of our priorities. I think there may be one priority that most may not think about pertaining to the last two weeks of school. This is the most important: your health.

You have to keep in mind that your health is the most important thing, always. These last two weeks will be filled with stress, and at times it will be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You have to remember to take breaks. You have to remember to eat and be active. You have to remember that sleep is a necessary thing—all 8 hours—, and you have to give yourself mental breaks and and reward yourself for motivation.

For me, I am a sucker when it comes to shopping and Netflix. After every two hours of hardcore studying, I usually tend to take a break to watch a 20 minute episode of Friends and reward myself with $10 to spend freely. Hey, that’s a lot of motivation in itself!

Lastly, no matter what happens in the end, the final is still a sheet of paper with words…that may or may not reflect who you are as a person or what you have learned this semester. Everyone has their moments of what seems likely failure, but honestly, your life won’t end because of a grade.

So, with that all being said, remember to breathe this week, and happy studying!

Thanks for reading,


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