by Megan LaCreta, Asst. Features Editor
As winter intersession draws near, students face one last hurdle: finals week. With deadlines looming and exams approaching, the stress of the final high pressure week of the semester grows greater.
This semester’s finals week is particularly challenging, as it falls in the wake of a year and a half of remote and hybrid learning. This change resulted in many professors taking a different approach to finals compared to the classic sit-down exam. Sophomore political science major Tyla Boone noted the change in the format of many of her finals compared to last spring.
“A lot of my finals last semester were take-home,” Boone said. “So I was able to sit with the questions and really figure them out, or flesh out a good essay, while [in-person finals] are just like, you have to constantly be writing.”
The pandemic has also added another layer of stress onto many students’ lives in the past year, as Patrice Athanasidy noted. The marketing and communication professor explained the kind of understanding on behalf of instructors that she says is necessary to get students through a finals week filled with unprecedented levels of stress.
“I happen to be the mom of a recent college graduate and a college student … I understand this current generation’s stress at a level that some people might not because I get to see it, unfortunately, with my own kids,” Athanasidy said. “I just feel like the pandemic has done more for stress levels than almost anything and we need to say ‘Okay, somewhere we have to take a breath.’ Somewhere we have to say, we’ll get through this as a team. It’s not me against my students, it’s together to get to the finish line.”
What can be done to combat stress during this notoriously anxiety-ridden period? Athanadisy encouraged students to take advantage of the counseling center. She also typically brings in a yoga instructor to teach a class to her students, although she wasn’t able to this semester. She also reminded students to use their resources, and that their professors are there for them during this time.
“Communication is important,” Athanasidy said. “If you let me know what’s going on, we can figure out a way to make you get through that challenge and then still get your work done.”
Psychology professor Danielle Young, Ph.D., encouraged students facing finals anxiety to make a plan that includes a healthy amount of sleep to help themselves feel more in control. In an email to The Quadrangle, she also mentioned that moderate exercise and meditation can help to calm nerves.
Young helps to lower the stress levels of her own students with a unique final option, called an “UnEssay.” The assignment is broad, and allows students to present the information they’ve learned in her class in any way they choose. Young explained why this kind of assignment benefits students, and eases stress.
“One of the goals of this project is to motivate students to engage in their own learning, and to have fun,” Young wrote. “When we are motivated to do tasks, we find them more enjoyable. So even if the activity is stressful, you interpret it differently. Think about anytime you’ve been engaged in a pleasurable activity: a class you love, playing sports, dancing, video games, etc. Even when it is hard or frustrating or stressful, these feelings can serve as motivators to study more, practice more, try that level one more time.”
Sophomore political science student Devyn Barram expressed that different formats of finals make the stressful last week of the semester easier to handle. As for advice she would give to fellow students, Barram shared her personal method of dealing with stress.
“Take breaks,” Barram said. “But also remember that it’s all going to be over in a week, and then you’re going to be able to relax.”
Boone also offered her own advice.
“Have a good support system,” Boone said. “Have a good group of people around you who are maybe as stressed as you are, but not in the sense where it’s weighing on your mental health, and who know when it’s time to walk away [from studying].”
Professors Athanasidy and Young both aimed to put the intimidating concept of finals into perspective for students, and emphasized that exams are just one part of a semesters’ worth of grades.
“Remember that finals are a chance to demonstrate your mastery of a subject matter at this specific time,” Young wrote. “It is not a reflection of your intelligence, your capability, or your worth as a person.”
“This too shall pass,” Athanasidy said. “Every finals week comes and goes… and when finals are over, there’s that true time for breath.”
As for what professors can do to help students, Boone offered some advice many students can get behind.
“Don’t assign a final, an essay and a presentation all in one week!”