It’s crunch time. There’s no other way to say it. Students came back from turkey and stuffing to find something entirely different on their UD plates: the final push, the last texts to read, the attempt to put together 15 weeks of learning into some coherent understanding. There were final papers, tests, projects, lab reports … and now, final exams. There’s nothing to do but hunker down, get serious, and show the grit and determination needed to work through these final few weeks. Often it’s the week or so before final exams that is the most hectic — there are recitals and Winter Cotillion (with waltz and swing dancing lessons preceding it), the Student Government Christmas Party, a student-led panel on St. Nicholas’ feast day featuring poems and stories about the Magi, and on the night before Dead Day (a day without classes before exams begin) a stand-up comedy amateur night called, if you can believe it, “Last Chance to Laugh Before You Cry.” Then, strangely, Finals Week provides a kind of odd calm, as all extracurricular activities, lectures, and games end, and quiet descends upon campus. During Finals Week, life becomes less hectic and more sequential: Students work up their last studying for an exam, knock it out, and then move on to the next one.
I always encourage students to see this period as less of a burden and more like getting prepped for a big contest: How can they adopt a good strategy? How can they study and analyze their “opponent” — the professor — to figure out how he will probe and test their offense and defense (their skills and knowledge)? How can they train their bodies and minds, get good nutrition and sleep, so they are ready for “the big game”? Even though this is a little … aggressive and oppositional (I’d prefer they think of exams in terms of liberal learning!), I try to get students to approach finals this way, as a kind of game and challenge, rather than as a burden, and turn it into something, well, kind of fun.