Finals Week from a New Perspective
December 4, 2015
By: Rose Saunders
With finals week around the corner, I have decided to flip the tables and look at this week from a different perspective: that of the professor. Do our professors have any tips for students as we take their exams and finish up projects? I went directly to the source and interviewed professors from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to find answers.
I wanted to know about the common mistakes professors have seen students make during finals week. The Writing Center’s Assistant Director Rachel Robinson, who also teaches Rhetoric and Composition courses at ASU and whose final is a portfolio, feels that the biggest mistake students can make with a final project is to “[put] them together at the last minute. Teachers can tell when things are slapdash and haphazard, and these are the last things that should describe a final portfolio.” Plan your time in advance and think realistically when it comes to finishing up a project or allocating time to study– don’t expect it all to happen in an hour! Dr. Lillian of the English Department feels that many of our finals week problems arise earlier in the semester: “Probably the biggest mistake students make, if you can call it a mistake, is not taking good notes in class. I often see students sitting in class without even a pen and paper.” How can you study if you haven’t taken any notes? It may be too late now to make up for a blunder such as this, but start next semester off on the right foot by taking comprehensive notes from the beginning.
The big question is what NOT to do when finals week rolls around, and Dr. Jason White of the History Department has some words of wisdom for us all: “[Don’t] engage in marathon study sessions where [you] stay up all night trying to memorize everything from the whole semester.” Believe it or not, sleep is important for our brains to perform well!
Test anxiety is a very real thing that many of us experience during finals week even if we are well prepared, so what do our professors have to say about it? Dr. White reminds us to take a step back and “[R]elax. You got this. If you have spent the semester following the syllabus, keeping up with the reading, thinking about the things discussed in class, you’ll be just fine.” Along with this, Professor Robinson suggests that, to cut back on stress, students need to “Use time wisely to get everything done; Netflix can wait.” If we plan wisely, all that stress can be avoided.
But what if you really aren’t prepared and you’ve been slacking all semester? Brian Bonville, a graduate student and Biology Lab Instructor, has some good advice: “make sure to cover the basics, think big picture and create a hierarchy of the topics that need to be covered.” You probably won’t come out with an A, but if you strategize wisely, it’s possible to redeem yourself! Dr. White emphasizes the power of communicating with your instructor: I am often sympathetic… so don’t be afraid to talk to me…However, I don’t want to hear excuses. The semester is long and during the course of the semester you have plenty of opportunity to come talk to me and work things out. Don’t wait until the last minute…”
If you feel like you need some help from a professor, make sure to ask for it as soon as possible. It’s also important to remember that honesty is the best policy. Dr. Lillian agrees that talking to your professor is a good strategy when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and reminds us that our professors are in fact rooting for us, “I teach because I love to teach, and that includes wanting to help students learn and succeed.” As a student, it can feel like our professors don’t care or won’t sympathize with us, but they became higher educators for a reason. Our professors have a passion for learning and teaching, and they want us to have a meaningful experience while enrolled in their classes. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
With all this new insight into finals week, let’s buckle down and finish strong!
Bonville, Brian. Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2015.
“Assistant Director Robinson.” Photograph. Rachel Robinson. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
“Dr. Lillian.” Photograph. Appalachian State University News. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
“Dr. White.” Photograph. Appalachian State University Department of History. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
“Instructor Bonville.” Photograph. Appalachian State University Department of Biology. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Lillian, Donna. Personal interview. 16 Nov. 2015.
Robinson, Rachel. Personal interview. 11 Nov. 2015.
White, Jason. Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2015.