Tips for a Successful Finals Week

Thank you to our guest writer, Elizabeth Baldridge, Academic Support Services, Center for the First-Year Experience within Student Affairs, for sharing tips and resources to be successful during Finals Week.

Finals week often feels like the most stressful time in the semester.  To help you get through this week, stick to habits that will help you study, destress, and maintain physical and mental well-being.

We know healthy habits are hard to start—and stick with—especially during an already challenging time. Do your best to take care of yourself and to be successful. You’re almost to the end of the semester—you’ve got this!

  1. Sleep. It’s easy to think the most important factor in academic success is how you study. Those habits are important, but your brain can’t process and remember information without sleep. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep throughout exam week so that you’ll have better concentration, and your exam preparation will be more productive.
  1. Organize your Study Space. Find a space to study where you feel comfortable—consider noise-level, lighting, and potential distractions. Put your phone and other distractions away; turn off notifications; and make sure your space is clean and organized.  It’s great to have one dedicated spot for studying, and if you if you feel stuck, changing up your space might be helpful.  So take a short break, find a new study spot, and choose a task you’d like to focus on or complete in that space.
  1. Spread Out Studying. Don’t try to cram for exams.  Repetition is important to retain information, so have multiple study sessions for a specific course leading up to your scheduled exam.  And you can’t concentrate on or retain information for long periods of time.  It’s important to chunk out your study sessions into manageable blocks of time so you can better focus and remember information for exams.
  1. Create a Study Schedule. To stay on track, create a study schedule. Use your planner, calendar, or just a page in your notebook, and write out all the final exams you must prepare for and papers or projects you need to complete for finals week.  Break each larger task into smaller steps and include how long you expect each project and step to take—be realistic.  If you use a calendar, block off time for your commitments (class, club meetings, work, etc.). Next, block out time for sleep, meals, and physical activity.  Use the rest of the space on your calendar to chunk out periods of study time.  Be specific.
  1. Take Breaks. Plan for breaks in your study schedule. Short breaks throughout your study session will help you recharge and refocus.  Take meaningful breaks that get your mind off the material—move your body, grab a snack, drink water, or practice a short mindfulness exercise.
  1. Eat Healthy Foods and Drink Plenty of Water. You can’t keep going if you don’t refuel your body. Make sure you drink plenty of water (and don’t overdo the caffeine) and give your body lots of good foods.  Have snacks available for your scheduled study breaks.
  1. Find a Study Method that Works for You. Find a study partner; tell someone about the topic and what you know; create your own study guide by organizing exam content onto a single sheet of paper; write notes in your own words; create flowcharts or diagrams; use acronyms or associations; practice previous exam questions; or practice problems from the text. Find a method that works for you and recognize that these methods may change for different types of classes or subject areas.

Academic and Study Support

  1. Greater University Tutoring ServicesGUTS Study Day offers finals week support through drop-in tutoring services from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday, December 11, through Zoom. See the full daily drop-In schedule.
  2. Multicultural Student Center—Reserve a study table at the MSC. Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.  Reserve a table at The MSC is also hosting a virtual study jam session with a live DJ, Grubhub gift card giveaways, and tutors for academic support. Join in this Friday, December 11.
  3. Library—College Library has posted their hours for finals week. Many services are available by appointment, and you can make a one-person study room reservation for a quiet place to study.
  4. The Writing Center—Schedule an appointment with The Writing Center or visit drop-in hours for help at any stage of your writing process as you work to submit final papers.

Well-being Resources

  1. University Health Services—UHS offers various services to support your mental health and well-being and to help you manage stress during finals week:
    1. Get online support through UHS Mental Health Services.
    2. Take mindful study breaks by engaging in self-guided, online meditation.
    3. Create a SilverCloud account for 24-hour, self-guided mental health resources and interventions.
  2. Center for Healthy Minds—Center for Healthy Minds at UW–Madison is a great well-being resource. Check out their podcast-style lessons and meditations by downloading the Healthy Minds Program App.  The center also introduced a new framework—the “how” of emotional well-being—that focuses on four skills that can be learned: awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.
  3. Food Assistance—Lower the stress of food insecurity by using The Open Seat, UW Student Food Pantry. 10-15 lb. food boxes are available for pickup at multiple campus locations. Find food assistance with other community services at
    (The Open Seat will be closed December 14–January 4.)
  4. Recreation and Wellbeing—Rec Well is hosting Self-Care Week, December 11–18. Free fitness classes are offered by American Family Insurance.  You must sign up before class at Registration opens 48 hours before each class.  After you register, you’ll receive an email with a Zoom link to join the class.
  5. Tips that may help you feel healthier and happier this winter. As the days get shorter and the weather turns colder, you may start to feel isolated, anxious, or depressed. You are not alone, and there are campus resources and tips available to support you to finish out the semester strong. Staff within Student Affairs can help you navigate this time.

This semester was hard, and you’re almost to the end. You’re doing it. Feel proud, and take good care.