As finals week approaches, students and professors discuss what their workload is like, how they prepare for exams and what they do to cope with stress.

Mass communication sophomore Alexandra Henderson said she is exhausted from constantly waking up at 4 a.m. so she can complete the workload that stands between her and finishing the semester.

In addition to maintaining attendance in five classes, Henderson works at the state legislature and is studying for the LSAT. She feels as though she is acting as a model student in terms of ambition and involvement but is struggling to make ends meet for her grades and personal life.

“If a day were maybe 48 hours, I would be able to handle it a little bit better,” Henderson said. “I’m literally writing or typing notes while I’m walking down stairs.”

Henderson said she usually does work for one class while she’s supposed to be paying attention to another.

“You’d expect the work to kind of ramp down, but for some reason, it’s going up,” Henderson said.

Though she understands it’s likely unrealistic, Henderson wishes that more consideration would be given when work and exams are assigned. She explained how heaps of work had snowballed into paralyzing proportions despite proactive studious behaviors.

On top of her inhibited ability to study for her exams, Henderson believes she has four exams on the same day.

Henderson aspires to attend LSU Law and is nervous about how her performance for good grades can affect her long-term dreams. She’s worried she’ll burn out in the weeks to come if things don’t wind down.

Kinesiology junior Taylor Walker has made it her priority to find out what important information she needs to know for her exams. Creating digital flashcards helps her perform well on exams.

“Digital flashcards have helped me out so much this year, so I have been doing that as well to study and retain what I study effectively,” Walker said. 

From a mental health standpoint, Walker said she takes advantage of the resources on campus to help her maintain positivity during a stressful part of the school year.

“To keep my mental health in check during finals week, I have been taking more time to myself and resting in my room,” Walker said. “Also, I’ve been making sure to get out of my room to do something I enjoy, such as playing basketball or running at the UREC. It helps me to not feel overwhelmed or pressured with academics. I do my best to fit in what is important to me, and all of that affects my mental health.”

As Walker enters her senior year, she has adjusted to LSU’s exams. She says this finals week is different, as she has become more intentional with her study habits.

 “The only difference between this year’s finals week and previous years is that I have been trying to be much more intentional with the way that I study,” Walker said. “I’ve been using digital flashcards all semester as opposed to last semester when I used nothing but a memory and some notes. I was still able to pass with decent grades, but not the grades I knew I could have earned.”

Walker believes that the best thing LSU can do for students in terms of exam preparation is have professors make sure they specifically tell students what to study for exams so proper preparation can take place.

“They don’t have to spill every single detail, but there is no reason why students should have to blindly study,” Walker said. 

Psychology junior Adriana Richardson believes this finals week is different from previous years because more of her classes go towards her specific major. As a junior, she feels more focused because graduation is approaching.

“This finals week is more so a jumpstart into my senior year versus undergraduate and not knowing my passion,” Richardson said. “These are classes that are directing me into my major, which propel me to strive for good grades.”

Richardson said she prepares for exams by reviewing her notes, meeting with professors and attending Supplemental Instruction sessions for classes that offer them.

Richardson said she keeps her mental health in check by bonding with her emotional support animal, taking breaks, playing music, and taking hot showers.

Gaines Foster, a history professor at LSU, believes early preparation is the best way students can perform well on exams. Foster says double-checking when exams are and actively studying will help students retain class material.

Foster also believes students should reach out to professors if they need help or have questions.

“Students should never hesitate to ask for help from their teachers as they prepare,” Foster said.

To help reduce student stress, Foster provides a sheet that explains the format of his tests and gives themes to outline in preparation for possible essay questions. He also holds review sessions and extra office hours for optimal preparation. He also holds his tests in person to allow students to ask issue-related questions.

Foster said he has not noticed major differences between previous finals weeks compared to recent years but believes the effects of online schooling due to COVID has impacted students.

“It’s hard to tell,” Foster said. “I do worry that students continue having a difficult time adjusting in the wake of Covid, which has disrupted their college careers in so many ways.

Raime Thibodeaux, director of mental health services at the Student Health Center, believes that there are inherently more stressful periods in life than others, and she’s especially noticed that in the number of clients the MHS assists during midterms and finals week.

Thibodeaux believes that students might be under additional pressure due to the amount of transition-related struggles students have experienced this semester related to COVID-19. She’s sympathetic to students struggling to cope with those changes.

Students undergoing transitions are some of the most susceptible to stress, Thibodeaux said. That’s not just freshmen but also students experiencing changes in curriculum and going from undergraduate work to postgraduate level work. When making transitions, Thibodeaux cautions students to avoid overworking themselves.

Thibodeaux reminds students not to neglect their basic needs, like sleeping or eating. She said that sleeping is especially underrated by college students. Brain development continues until around age 25, and a healthy amount of sleep is necessary for that development.

“Sleep deprivation can make the healthy of us look completely off-kilter,” Thibodeaux said. “You can be a super healthy, emotionally intelligent, well-balanced, stress managed person, but you stay up all night studying and then continue throughout the next day; there’s only so long that you can be okay, right?”

Thibodeaux recommends students reflect on themselves and their many facets when they start to feel overburdened. She said that problems could emerge when students ignore these feelings. Building a support network among friends/advisers could signal that help is needed or change is required.

“It’s going to look different for everybody,” Thibodeaux said. “A general explanation that I give for reaching help is whenever you’ve used your current resources, and they’re no longer working, that’s when coming here or reaching other resources is really helpful to learn some new skills and fortify my situation so that I can succeed.”

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