A student’s parent recently signed an email to me with “#no-all-nighters.” Not only did I confirm it was indeed one goal that their student was committed to and actively working towards, but I also asked to use it as the title for the post I was writing with my top tip for the end of the term!
As the end of each semester nears, I work with students to take inventory of their “to dos” for the last week or so of classes, final exam schedule, and other end of semester “deliverables.” We review their standing in each class, revisit the course grading rubrics, assess their mindset and level of motivation, and focus on resources and support that will be valuable during the final push. And, of course we discuss the importance of and strategies for “#no-all-nighters!” Time and time again, it’s the students who commit to structure by developing and keeping a schedule during the study and final exam period who feel satisfied with their effort at semester’s end.
Even though a typical day in the life of a college student is less structured than high school, most find their days during a semester pretty busy as they move from from one part of campus to another for classes, stand in line for caffeine and food, pop into office hours, work on a task for an extracurricular commitment, work a few hours at their on/off campus job, attend a practice, rehearsal, appointment, run errands, or go to the lab or maker-space to work on research or a project. During the semester most students have pretty clear windows of time for studying, which includes among other things completing homework/problem sets, writing papers, preparing for exams, working on individual or group projects, doing research for academic work, and reviewing lecture notes. With the end of the semester comes the end of classes as well as other co/extracurricular activities. As a result, students suddenly have a significant amount of unstructured time. Even if a student has 4-5 finals (each a couple hours in length), they will likely have a large number of unscheduled hours over a typical 7-14 day study/final exam period. This results in unfamiliar territory for many students. Many eagerly anticipate having so much “free” time between the last day of classes and when their last deliverable is due.
It is understandable that many less-experienced college students don’t anticipate how unnerving this abrupt change in their schedule can feel and flounder in managing this critical part of the semester. However, it is also students with a semester or more under their belt who too often fail to take advantage of having significantly more time to study once classes end. Thus many students end up either not managing or mismanaging their time, while others procrastinate more than ever. Unfortunately, this results in too many students either not getting enough sleep or worse yes, pulling all-nighters during this demanding time in order to cram for exams or complete papers/projects before deadlines that are well known in advance. Therefore, at a time when students desperately want to perform at their best, they are undermining their academic success by being sleep deprived.
Number one tip for #no-all-nighters
So as your student heads into finals season, my number one tip is that they approach this time with intention and stay disciplined. Advocate that they use planning tools available online and through the learning or academic support center on their campus to put together a realistic, detailed, day-by-day, hour-by-hour schedule from the last day of classes until their last exam or end-of-semester deliverable. They will likely find helpful study tips and test taking strategies through these centers, as well! When planning their time, make sure students prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep every night and include time to relax and recharge, in addition to their exams, deliverables, commitments and study sessions. Remind them that it will be impossible for them to perform their best if they are tired, hungry, or completely depleted. Here’s to a strong end to the semester and to #no-all-nighters!
What suggestions do you have to support students in having a successful end to their semester? Advice for #no-all-nighters?
Beth A. Howland is a higher education consultant and college student success coach based in Ithaca, NY. She is the founder of College Navigators, LLC.