|LVC Alumni and Staff Share Tips to Conquer Final Exams
This semester’s courses are drawing to a close, bringing both the excitement of holiday vacation and the dread of finals week. This week can be overwhelming, but with this advice from Lebanon Valley College staff and alumni, final exams can be both manageable and fun.
How to Study
According to Dr. Paul Fullmer, LVC chaplain and director of community service and volunteerism, changing your physical study setting can reduce stress and increase retention.
“Find an empty classroom and assume the role of professor,” Fullmer suggests. “Write on the whiteboard. Develop examples for the imaginary class. As you attempt to explain what you understand to others, you’ll deepen your own understanding. You might also identify concepts that you don’t really understand as well as you think you do. Getting out of the residence hall or the library cubicle will be refreshing in and of itself.”
Dr. Stevie Falk, director of counseling services, advises students to maintain a typical schedule as much as possible with regular meals, regular exercise, and regular sleep. “Do not pull 'all-nighters,' she says. “Rather, study early and frequently, and create a study schedule and stick to it.”
Carly Wilfong ’13 echoes Falk’s advice: “Make sure you get your sleep and don't start studying at the last minute. Space everything out to allow yourself not to get too stressed out.”
Parent of a current student, Barbara Lange P’17, also recommends rest. “Don't sacrifice sleep. Sleep is like rebooting is to a computer - it cleans the slate and rejuvenates the body, mind, and soul!”
LVC sociology professor and yoga instructor Dr. Marianne Goodfellow suggests that students practice deep breathing for good health. “You should practice deep breathing every day for several minutes but, if that is not possible, use deep breathing during times of stress. Deep breathing relaxes the nervous system and therefore lower levels of stress and anxiety by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system and the relaxation response. It is calming and restorative as it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to intestines and internal organs. Another benefit is that is helps calm the mind so you can focus more effectively on the task at hand.”
Residential life area coordinator Megan Brannan and Dr. Falk both advise a healthful diet and adequate hydration. There is nothing worse than being sick during finals week.
Take a Break
There is value in taking a time-out to rest your mind in the middle of a cram session. Suzanne H. Arnold Art Gallery director Dr. Barbara McNulty suggests visiting the “Minna Citron” exhibit (a recent New York Times article says that “Art Makes You Smart”), while Dr. Goodfellow advises participation in the Dec. 10 yoga session on campus to reduce stress and anxiety.
Dr. Fullmer asserts that there is opportunity to bring joy to your study by taking your study to a local retirement community. “In most cases, arrangements need not be made in advance. A simple, brief conversation with the staff on hand as you enter the facility will help you to identify a resident interested in listening to information you need to master regarding history, religion, education theory, etc. Just be prepared to share a little about yourself and to hear from others as well. Practice your presentation. Read your final paper. Have a musical piece to rehearse? Chances are that staff at a senior center will happily direct you to a lobby where your rehearsal of a piece for piano, violin, horn, or flute will likely draw an audience whose appreciation looks past false starts, mistakes, even endless repetition.”
“The associative power of location and personal interaction will increase your recall of material in ways not possible at a desk in the library or dorm room,” Fullmer continues. “And as you sense the appreciation of those who benefit from your company, you’ll be glad you changed your study location.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, attend Counseling Services’ DeStress Break on Thursday, December 5 from 11-1 p.m. in Mund College Center. Stop in for a massage, food, and music to relax prior to finals.
Student accounts director Carrie Skovrinskie advises students to “Never underestimate the power of coloring books and crayons. I was always well stocked for finals week, so that we could take breaks and decompress a bit in the midst of our marathon study sessions.”
Just Before the Exam
Valley alumni have “been there, done that,” and they have some great advice for the morning of the big test. Janice Clemons ’92 suggest going over your notes one last time in the morning while you are drying your hair or eating breakfast. And finally, John Ebert ’78 says, “Coffee and confidence will see you through; it's important to stay positive and relaxed.”