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December 04, 2007

Stress Free Finals: It’s Possible

By Sumeera Younis

Finals are upon us and although they can be tough, it is ok not to be freaking out, not to be depressed and not to feel like you are an alien because you haven’t been outlining for the last two months. Having been through three rounds of finals so far I have learned some things about the process; perhaps the most shocking being that I have actually learned to have fun studying for finals.

Step 1. Find a Study Buddy

There is a lot of talk about study groups in law school but I have found I do my best work when I have a study buddy. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be in your classes or even in your year. Rather they are someone who is on the same study schedule as you. Think of it like a work out buddy. They can help motivate you to be in the library by a certain time, set goals with you, and you can take breaks together. This will help structure your days and establish a routine that will keep you productive.

Step 2: Eat Like You Mean It

Although food is always pretty wonderful, during finals it can serve as the perfect distraction and motivator. You and your study buddy can take in all that South University and State Street have to offer during lunch-time. (May I recommend the lentil soup at Rendevous, the pancakes at Mr. Greeks, and the chicken parmesan panini at Zas.) Having a fun lunch outing every day will help break up your schedule, keep your brain strong and make you happy.

Snacks are also important. Something I enjoy doing around finals is going to the grocery store and loading up on snacks. I get lots of raw peanuts, candy, and energy drinks. By spoiling myself around this time, it makes me have happy associations with finals and helps me stay focused and energized while I am working. (Beware of some of the energy drinks because they will make you crash; try to balance them with Gatorade or water)

Having a good dinner will help you get through the last hours of the nights and if you like cooking it can be incredibly relaxing to spend a little time in the kitchen a couple of times a week. That way you can control your food so you are eating healthy and also have some time to yourself to listen to music and to dance while you cook. Grab a coffee and head back to school to log in your final hours.

Step 3: Take Breaks

Although you might feel like you need to be studying all the time and may think that taking breaks will make you fail out of law school, you need to have some time just to relax. Try to make the most of your time studying by minimizing the time you spend browsing the internet, or the countless hours you spend complaining about professors or other students once finals stress begins to loom. Instead, pool that time so you can watch a funny movie. If you feel too guilty doing that, then just watch a lawish movie such as Michael Clayton or the Pelican Brief and pretend that counts as studying. If you think a movie is too much of a commitment, then watch a quick episode of a show you like. May I recommend Arrested Development -- particularly season two.

Step 4: Stay Physically Strong

One of the biggest complaints I heard during finals last year was people complaining of eye strain. My optometrist says there are two key things you need to do to minimize eye strain and prevent long damage to your peepers. First, remember to have good posture while you are reading or writing. Second, give your eyes a break every fifteen minutes or so by looking around and stretching out your eyes.

Also, don’t sacrifice sleep (unless you normally don’t need much) to study. You will study yourself into the ground when you would do better if you just got your rest at night or took a quick nap and came back to the work later.

Step 5: Stay Mentally Strong

Finals can be depressing if you let them. The power of positive thinking is never more important than at finals. Give yourself positive reminders of your accomplishments and your capabilities. You made it to the most amazing law school in the world; if Sarah Zearfoss thought you were cool, you must be pretty sweet.

Also, make sure to maintain relationships outside of law school at this time. This is a good time to put in a long overdue phone call to Mom, Dad or another best friend. Talking to people who know you outside of law school will help you keep your perspective and help keep you balanced.

Step 6: Vary Your Surroundings:

Studying for finals can become like one long endless task unless you break up your routine and change the places where you study. Try studying at home, at a coffee shop, at the graduate library or on North campus. (You even might pick up a hot med student if you hang around enough!) I have also found that the third floor of Hutchins Hall is amazingly quiet in the late hours of the night and have opted to study there on nights when the second floor student lounge gets too festive. Finally, avoid the library if you get psyched out or start feeling claustrophobic.

Law school grades matter a lot. But the person you are and the way you live your life matters more. Enjoy what you are doing, put in the effort you need to do well, but don’t forget the bigger picture.