Prep Talk Blog > February 2010

College freshman Hannah Holmes deals with finals for the first time:

I think every first year college student can agree with me, your first semester’s finals can be pretty overwhelming. And probably all the other finals after that can too.

In all honesty though, I think if you make a conscious effort to take good notes, pay attention, and work hard all throughout the semester, studying for finals should not be a completely unmanageable task. Practice tests help, too. Once that week arrives, there’s nothing else to do but study everything you’ve learned and hope for the best. Chances are pretty good you know the stuff better than you think. For all the students out there who, like me, where having a panic attack the entire week of finals, relax and take a deep breath.  Bythe time you’re there, you really either know the stuff or you don’t. This does take some of the pressure off during finals week. However, it makes things a lot trickier for the rest of the semester.

I guess the only advice I can give is to do your best, which I know is completely cliché. Take study breaks in the interest of your sanity and those around you. If your prone to being too relaxed, make sure you’re studying hard enough. If you’re prone to anxiety, try to relax and not give yourself an ulcer… which isn’t really a scientific fact,because those of us who passed my basic biology course know that, in reality, ulcers are caused by acid-resistant bacteria.

And finally, keep in mind that it’s just one week out of your life. Of course, depending on the grades you get, you could be spending quite a few more weeks of your life in a classroom.   But try to stay positive and keep things in perspective at all times, including 3:00 in the morning when you’re still studying for your 8:00 am exam (a practice which, by the way, I don’t recommend).

For anyone preparing to start college in the fall or the spring, I can say after having finally successfully completed my first semester, it's really not as scary as it may seem. It can be as fun, as exciting, as worthwhile, and as fulfilling as you make it. I imagine it could really be horrible too, but you really just have to put a little effort into making it a fruitful experience, and at least some of the best years of your life, if not the best. I really couldn’t speak to that yet, considering there’s a lot I haven’t experienced yet in life. I’m trying to take things one day, or at least one semester, at a time. 

For more stories from students themselves, check out the archives for previous columns in The Freshman Experience.

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College freshman Hannah Holmes talks about what it's like to plan for the rest of her college career during her first year:

Well, it’s getting to be that time of the semester. For one thing, all the work seems to have gotten harder for everyone in the space of a week’s time. On top of that, it’s time to pick classes for next semester, and, for us freshman, to make the infamous four year plan.

Without fail, the upperclassmen I’ve talked to see some benefits to the four year plan, but mostly think it’s silly. You change your mind so much about so many different things during college, the idea of planning out every semester when you’ve been in school for two months is slightly ridiculous. I happen to have declared my major before I hit campus, and to think that the chances of it changing are about as likely as us getting half a foot of snow here at the University of Tampa. But I already have declared a minor, something I never even really thought about in high school. And there are plenty of kids who haven’t declared a major, and tons more who (statistics show) will change their majors. I know one Marine Bio major who I personally think should switch to English. She’s doing much better in her beginning English classes than beginning sciences, and she’s the only person I know who can make a text message downright poetic.

The point is that whether you’re making your schedule for the next semester, working on your four year plan, or declaring a major, there’s a lot to think about, and it can be slightly overwhelming. Compared to college, high school feels so safe, stifling, and structured to me. Everything is essentially planned out for you. Then you go to work and your boss tells you exactly what to do. You go home, and you’re basically following your parent’s agenda, more or less. In college, decisions are yours to make. You take responsibility for your own actions; you’re in charge of becoming what you want to be. No one’s going to do it for you. It’s somewhat scary and mind-boggling at first, but then, depending on how you respond, I think it can be one of the best experiences of your life. It all just comes down to figuring out what’s important to you, and prioritizing those things, in day to day and semester scheduling, as well as in declaring a major or minor. I thought at the beginning of the semester that I could do it all, and perfectly too, for that matter. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that my expectations were slightly unrealistic. Since then I’ve learned the value of scheduling and prioritizing, and even though that can be hard for me, I know it’s a valuable lesson I’m not likely to learn any other way.

For more stories from students themselves, check out the archives for previous columns in The Freshman Experience.

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Don Munce