Oberlin Blogs

Finals Drama and Holiday Goodies

January 5, 2015

Samantha Smylie ’17

Even though Oberlin tries to make finals easier on students by giving us a reading period, which is two days of free time to prepare for exams, essays, or projects, it is still hard. This semester, I decided to take harder courses because I wanted to start doing the coursework for my potential major (psychology). I took Research Methods 1, Cultural Psychology, a politics class called War, Weapons, and Arms Control, and an English class called Gender and Media in Early America. My professor for Cultural Psychology is an angel: he did not give us a final, our last exam was before finals week. For Research Methods 1, I had a group research project. For my politics class, I had an exam. For Gender and Media, I had a seven-page essay. It does not seem to be a lot, but it was a very long week for me. I did not get enough sleep; on the day hours before my last final I was very dizzy. I did not eat properly; I would not eat until 8pm every day because I wanted to make sure that I did enough work. It was just very stressful and I do not think I could have done much to help me in my situation, so I am just glad I got through it.

I hope that I am not scaring you guys. I am sure finals week is a different experience for everybody, especially depending on your major. My freshman year first semester, I had mostly papers and written exams. That was the perfect mix for me. During reading period, I outlined my essays and created study guides. Finals are manageable! So let me give you guys some tips for finals.


1. Before finals, know where you stand in each class. If you are not doing well in a class or two, Oberlin offers some support:

a. If you are failing and you do not see yourself in a class you can withdraw. You will have to find some way to make up the class credit. You can take Excos, learning strategy classes, or a second module course.

b. If you are not doing so well in a class but you need the credit for a graduation requirement, you can request the Pass/No Pass option. Instead of receiving a letter grade, for a course that could lower your GPA, you will receive either a P or a NP. In order to receive a P, you must obtain a C- or above. Be mindful that this option will not be useful in some of your major classes.

c. If you are struggling to keep up with your work due to personal or medical reasons you can request an Incomplete from the Dean of Studies before the final exam. You will receive a temporary grade in order to complete work within a course. In the college, there are two different types of incompletes: educational and emergency. An educational incomplete is for when you are having a hard time keeping up with all the work in the class. You must go to the Dean of Studies to request this incomplete, and then your professor must approve it. If your professor approves your request, you and the professor must agree on the due date for the work. If you do not uphold this agreement, you will receive a grade based on your work that was already submitted during the year. An emergency incomplete is for reasons outside of the student's control, like medical conditions (like a sprained ankle), psychological reasons (maybe depression), or a life crisis (death of an immediate family member). This incomplete is only for end of the semester work, so you must have completed all the work before the last few weeks of school. In order for this incomplete to be approved, you must have your reason documented. Your professor will be notified about the request, but not about the reason behind it. All the work that you must complete is due no later than published on the academic calendar.

2. The week before finals is the conclusion of classes and teacher evaluations. I understand that teacher evaluation is very important for each department, but I think that the classes that you've enjoyed you should not do an evaluation for. Why? I think that your evaluation will be very biased because you loved it! Instead of wasting time going to those classes, get some prep work done for finals. However, before you decide to miss class, talk to your professor to see what the last couple days will be like. If your professor is going over the study guide or offering advice for the final paper, you should go!

3. Take care of yourself. The last couple of weeks of school might be a little stressful, but it will offer you time to rest and nourish your body before finals week. You need to try to get a good amount of sleep and eat healthy in order to be energized for the hardest week of your college career.

4. Know the format of your finals!

- If you have a research paper, make sure you know what citation format you will be using, how many resources you need, how you want to divide your paper, and other necessities. Research papers can be rewarding if you do all the prep work. Outline and think about questions that your audience might ask.

- If you have an exam, know the format of the exam! Is it multiple choice? Will it have short essays, vocabulary words, or longer essays? In this case, be sure you know what study strategies work for you. I LOVE NOTECARDS. I write them, color them if I have to remember diagrams, and flip them hundreds of times everywhere I go. One time for a test, I recorded myself saying vocabulary words and played that recording all night long. Do whatever you must!

5. Form Study Groups!

- I personally have a little social anxiety, so it is hard for me to talk to people in my classes. However, I'm working through that by starting light conversations with people who sit near me. It is important to create these classroom relationships so that you won't feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that you have; you might have the same people in your classes, and social relationships are actually really healthy for you.

6. Talk to Professors

- They are obligated to help you even during finals week. If you have a question before the exam, go ask them. They can help you understand the material better than anyone else. BTW, you do fund their salaries. ☺

7. Learn to Relax

- It can be overwhelming going over all of the material for class. Take a break. I do not expect anyone to study for five hours straight, to me that's impossible. You need to go get some food, dance in your room/study room/carrel/or wherever else you might be studying, watch a short episode of a TV series you love or listen to a podcast. I am in love with podcasts right now; I have been listening to Serial, The Read, Strangers, Slate's Political Gabfest, and snap judgment.

I always have to give myself little prep talks in the morning, so let me give you the same one. Do not ever doubt why you were accepted here at Oberlin. You are just as brilliant, creative, and insightful as anyone else at this campus. You don't just deserve to be at this campus, but this campus should be happy that you've graced them with your presence. You can and you will get through finals week.


Since finals were happening, I didn't get a chance to post anything before the holidays. I hope that you all had a wonderful time during the holidays and a good start to the New Year. As I stated before, I love baking. It brings my family together. Like every year for Christmas, my family and I make a bunch of cookies and decorate them. Check out some of our cookie decorations!

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