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Reserving the right energy for the final push

Sam Anderson/Collegian

As finals rapidly approach, the mood on campus is almost palpable. Students shuffle to the library, headphones in and eyes staring at the ground. The dining halls are quiet as students focus intensely on laptops and notebooks. Even the weather seems to be symbolic of the upcoming weeks, with gray skies and light showers that seem never-ending.

On one hand, the semester is almost over and summer is approaching. The time for internships, research, more classes or just relaxation is almost here, yet there is one final hurtle to get through: finals. Although nearly everyone on campus has had finals before, their recurrence still sends shivers down students’ backs. But while the temptation to lock yourself away in the library and hide behind a tower of coffee cups may seem enticing, it could be doing you more harm than good.

I may only be a sophomore, but I’ve learned enough in my two years of college finals to know that this technique will lead to exhaustion, poor grades and more stress. Students need to get out and do something other than studying all day, every day.

But for many students, myself included, the idea of taking some time off can add more stress, as students can often feel that if they aren’t constantly working, they are not putting in enough effort. While this is an understandable feeling, more often than not putting in 110 percent effort is going to make you perform worse come exam time. You have a finite amount of energy that is best used in hour-long bursts of concentration, followed by a quick break to recharge and relax. Doing this will help keep your energy up during the next few long, grueling weeks.

Some students find that reading a book or watching TV is a good study break. Others use exercise and time outdoors to recharge themselves. Whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed and re-energized is something that you should be doing at least once a day, especially during finals.

The University of Massachusetts is well aware of the high stress levels of students during this time, and they’re usually pretty good at helping us through it. The library will offer free cookies, juice and coffee on most afternoons next week, so you can expect me to be hovering around that area. There’s also the therapy dogs that sometimes come to various spots around campus, and I highly recommend seeing them because it’s doubtful that anything will cheer you up more than an adorable dog.

Another concentration tip that shocks most students is that students should turn off their cellphones. I know that saying this nowadays is blasphemy, but think about how much time we spend on our phones. You may have the aim of taking a break, but 10 minutes later you’re still checking your Twitter feed. Believe me when I say I know how addicting phones can be, and that’s why I make sure that mine is turned off and in my backpack so I’m not tempted while studying.

Burnout is something that I imagine every student across the world feels at one point or another. You may like your major and your classes, but it’s completely understandable to feel exhausted at the end of a long semester. What makes it even harder is that this final push is often what will make or break your grades. Most finals are at least 25 to 30 percent of your grade, so it’s crunch time. It will feel overwhelming and it will feel grueling, but if we can all just make it through these last few weeks, then the freedom of summer awaits. Let’s finish this semester with a bang.

Jeffrey Ayers is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at jayers@umass.edu.

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