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A Letter to My Fellow College Students

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It’s that time of the school year, when all-nighters are the norm, delirium does not simply set in, but remains for an entire week, when everyone studies (or at least appear to study) together, ridiculous Facebook statuses are posted, and when it’s okay to live on a diet of chocolate-covered pretzels, cookies, Red Bull, carne asada fries, and coffee.

It’s that time of finals.

It’s a little late, but I just want to remind college students of a few things to keep in mind during these trying (trust me, it could be worse) times. These small things have helped me get through my finals during my years in college.

1. Tea for coffee.
Try to substitute in tea for coffee every now and then. Tea helps you focus and still gives you that slight caffeine buzz that you crave during your studies. Add some honey and lemon to add more flavor and soothe your throat to fight off the possibility of getting sick during your long nights of studying (or Facebooking). Substitution goes for healthier snack alternatives as well. One of my favorites are baby carrots. Small bags go for about $1 at your local market They have nowhere near as much sugar as candy and the crunch keeps you awake. Even wheat snacks are better than cookies. Small changes count.

2. Stay positive
Don’t let negativity consume you during your studies. It’ll ruin your concentration and will make your studying counterproductive. When you study a concept, and you (finally) understand it, take a moment (3 seconds) to give yourself some credit, then move on to the next topic. From personal experience, soaking in these small moments of “Hey I get this!” helped me retain information. Stop thinking “Oh my God, there’s so much material. This sucks. I’m going to fail.” It doesn’t help. Stay positive right up to the moment when you finish your exam. A simple change in mindset will do wonders for your studying and your test-taking.

3. Be nice.
Everyone is studying, don’t be too loud. You wouldn’t want others to bother you while you study–don’t bother others. Taking a study break? See someone else who needs a break? Take a break together and talk about things that have nothing to do with studying. Are you going to get some tea? Offer to grab drinks for the people you’re studying with. Maybe they have an exam the next day and don’t want to wait in line to get a drink. Doing nice things puts you in a good mood, which means a better state of mind for studying.

4. Get some sleep.
Sleep can be a waste of time–it can also be the biggest different between an A and a C. Sleep helps you consolidate the information that you crammed into your head. Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep and wake up 2 hours before your exam. This means being in bed by midnight and waking up at 6am for your 8am exam (why do colleges even have exams this early?). You want those few hours before your exam to review some material and relax. You don’t want to rush to get ready and run to your exam. You just won’t be in a good mental state to get your ego pounded down on.

5. Look to the long-term.
Remind yourself why doing well on the exam is important. It’s not just for the A. You want the A so you can get a pretty GPA and go to graduate school. You want to go to medical school to help sickly people and this class will help get you there. The A is so that, later, you can say to yourself “Hey, remember that advanced organic chemical synthesis (or whatever you took) class you took? You passed that. How many people can say that?” Not many.

You may not know what you want to do as a career yet–face it, not many of us do, but imagine yourself as a success. Success doesn’t have to do with a career. You can imagine yourself with your own family and friends, celebrating Christmas together, feasting around a large table of food, and everyone in their own Christmas sweaters. Imagine a happy scene you eventually want to be in.

Hold onto that happy place. That’s your goal. It’ll keep you going at your worse moments, at your lowest lows, and it’ll keep you in check when you lose focus. Push on.