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Focus Guides & Tips

The Ultimate Guide to The End of The Semester

Illustration: Margot Whipps

As the end of the semester gets closer, life can become hectic to say the least. In addition to studying for your finals, you most likely have more than a couple of projects and assignments to hand in the very week after Thanksgiving. Desperation might be knocking on your door at this exact second because of that to-do list that only gets longer instead of shorter. Although it might sound satisfying, read this article before you pick up that huge pile of papers and throw them out the window. You may not only become more confident but also have a few things to look forward to. 

Here is my ultimate guide to the end of the semester where I will share some tips and advice with you.

Stay Ahead of Finals and Study Efficiently

One of the biggest reasons to-do lists and schedules are often useless to many people has little to do with the technique in itself and a lot to do with how that technique is being applied. Organization is a huge part of staying on top of your work and, in spite of everyone having their own methods to do so, a schedule can be of great help. The real trick is making a schedule that is realistic and really takes into consideration both the workload and the time necessary for each task – and, of course, actually sticking to that schedule.

The major issue with to do lists is the unrealistic amount of work people expect themselves to get done within a virtually impossible time frame. Anxiety will more often than not push people to think they need to get everything done as soon as possible which subsequently makes them write down all of those tasks and expect themselves to actually accomplish those tasks within one or two days. Staring at an incredibly long list will overwhelm you even more and, because you will not have time to finish each item, you may feel disappointed in yourself and unmotivated to keep going when in reality it is anything but your fault. The world seems to constantly be speeding up and we believe that it is our duty to fast-forward ourselves in order to catch up. In that process, we forget that we have yet to become superhumans. That is why to do lists are only reliable if the items are well-distributed through a reasonable amount of time.

This way you are actually able to complete your daily tasks without overworking yourself which will make you feel accomplished and healthily stimulated. Moreover, doing a small amount of work every day will allow you to not only stay ahead of future assignments but also to have some time for yourself at the end of the day. Instead of working until late night hours and thus tiring yourself for the next day, you can finish your work earlier and maybe destress by having a fun dinner with your friends or watching an episode of a show you like.

It is also important to know what to prioritize. For that, you should think about which classes need your immediate attention, which projects will take longer for you to finalize and which courses you need to study for more. Sometimes it is hard to decide where to start. You have a big project due relatively soon but a short assignment that is due sooner – which one should you get done first? It is really about your preferences, your own time, and your necessities. As long as you plan out what and when you’ll do it, there is no need to stress yourself any further although that can understandably be hard not to do.

The efficiency of studying methods varies from one individual to the other. It’s important to personalize your studying routine according to what is best for you. Ask yourself what kind of environment increases your productivity. Some people need absolute silence in order to concentrate and others cannot stand it, feeling more focused when there is noise around them.

Moreover, each class is different which means that whatever studying method is effective for one will not necessarily apply to all others. Some courses are better understood through reading and re-reading of texts accompanied by summaries of the most important passages. Flash cards and mind-maps can be helpful as well and sometimes practicing through actual exercises is the best alternative. Self-awareness regarding how you react to all these different possibilities is one of the key points about efficient studying.

Lastly, be sure to also review previous quizzes and papers from the semester. Pay extra attention to what already appeared in tests and what important topics have yet to show up.

Reduce with Stress and Take Care of Your Mental Health

Despite how important classes may be, your mental health is vital to your life since it directly affects your well-being which in turn impacts your motivation as well as your productivity. Thereby, taking care of yourself should always come first — it is the first step for everything else.

Campus can become suffocating after a while, especially at the end of the semester. It can be extremely helpful to take a break from campus and thus from your routine. A deep breath in a different environment will help to clear your head and refocus. You could go to Center City or South Street, walk around, grab a cup of coffee, and even do your work inside a café instead of all the same-old campus locations. Take advantage of the sparse sunny days and go to Penn’s Landing. Take a seat near the water, allow yourself to clear your mind and ignore the rest of the world. There is more to Philly than Main Campus and you should take advantage of it. 

If you want to destress without being in the cold, there are many indoors alternatives, too. Give yourself a self-care night – take a hot bath or shower, put on comfy clothes, make popcorn, grab some snacks and watch something of your taste. Dance your worries away either alone or with your friends without leaving your cozy home. Exercise can also be a great way to relax, but sometimes the best is just literally taking a whole day to do absolutely nothing except for things that you enjoy.

Celebrate Your Achievements

After being done with finals, the best part comes. You get to reward yourself however you want for all of the hard work that you did during the semester.

If you have some money to spare, take yourself out for an amazing dinner. A great place that serves incredible food for a more than reasonable price – you are very hardly going to spend more than $30 there – and is connected to Philly’s history is Ralph’s Italian Restaurant. They are the second oldest Italian restaurant in the United States. Besides, Philadelphia is a huge city with many other cheap options for good meals. In sight of the holiday season, you could also give yourself a special present that you have wanted for a long time.

Now that you actually have the time, celebrate the end of the semester by doing something that you have wanted to do during the semester but just didn’t get the chance to. You could go ice-skating with your friends. Here are some places to do that.

Summary of The Guide

  •     Make a realistic schedule and sticking to it
  •     Have a balance between well-distributed work and taking time for yourself
  •     Prioritize your tasks
  •     Be aware of what works best for you when it comes to studying methods and environment 
  •     Take past assignments into consideration
  •     Take a break from campus
  •     Have a self-care night
  •     Have a dance party with your friends
  •     Exercise 
  •     Go out for dinner to celebrate
  •     Get yourself a special gift
  •     Do something you didn’t get a chance to during the semester

This guide hopefully gave you some good and useful advice that will help you sail through these last few weeks more smoothly. Try taking things as lightly as you can and do not stress yourself out any more than necessary. Keep a positive mindset and be confident that you can manage all that is being thrown at you because you actually can. 

Good luck on your finals and take care of yourself!