It’s the week before Thanksgiving. Time to get into the holiday mood, but also the exact moment that your semester kicks into warp speed. Wait until the Monday after turkey day to think about your final exams, papers, and projects, and you’ll have more to worry about than whether that four-day-old oyster stuffing is still safe to eat.
Your fellow patriot, Ben Franklin, said, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” Good point, Ben. Grabbing the first book you see and cramming for the test, or sitting in front of your laptop trying to cobble your thoughts into a brilliant paper isn’t going to get you to the finish line. So now, before all the pie and mashed potatoes, and before the panic sets in, MAKE A PLAN. Here’s how:
- Know where you stand in each class. It’s surprising how many students don’t take the time to log in and look over the grades they’ve received so far and what’s left on the syllabus. At this point in the semester, “I think I’m doing okay” is not enough. Look over your scores so far in each class. Anything missing? Any nasty surprises? If so, reach out to your professor for a chat. They may still be in the process of grading or they may have even made an error entering a grade, but it’s good to know and address it now.
- Once you know the grade you currently have, think about the grade you want. How many assignments are left? How will your final be weighted? That information should be found in your course syllabus. Do the math and then prioritize studying for the courses where you need to improve the most or where the final will have the largest impact on your overall grade.
- Understand your final. This is a simple step, but don’t skip it! You should know not only when your final exam is or when the final paper is due, but what format your final will take. That information is usually in your course syllabus. In some classes, you may not even have a final or could be exempt from taking it if you already have a certain grade going into finals, so it’s worth a look. If you do have an exam, will it include short essays? What, if any, materials, can you use while taking it? If your final is a writing assignment, think very carefully about the prompt. Do you really understand what your instructor is asking for? If the answer is no, the time to re-read the syllabus (can you tell we love a good syllabus?) and ask questions is now, not the night before it’s due. If you wait, not only might you be too late to receive a response, your lack of planning could still be in your professor’s mind when it’s time for grading.
- Make a schedule – and include Thanksgiving Break in it! Now that you know where you stand, it’s time for a battle plan. Write it down and be specific. Schedule time, class-by-class, to finish up any outstanding reading, review your notes, and outline those writing assignments. Instead of planning a marathon cram session during Reading Days, carve out exam prep time along with the turkey. Get in an hour of study while the pies are baking; when the uncles are napping in front of football, you could be making yourself a study guide. Take time to celebrate with friends and family, but don’t lose sight of your academic goals.
The good news is that this time next month finals will all be behind you, you’ll be on a real break from classes, and all you need to worry about is making sure you’re registered for your spring semester. Give yourself the gift of a strong finish this holiday season! You’ll be thankful you did.
Meg Yoder is living the dream as CEHD’s Student Communications Coordinator. If she’s not trying to entice you to read your Mason email, she’s probably crafting or gardening.