Surviving Finals Week in PA School

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Man oh man are finals in PA school though. Spring semester was taxing in so many ways that even though no one likes finals, I was actually looking forward to them just so this semester would come to an end. Today, I wanted to share what has been working for me the last 3 semesters to survive finals weeks (because just 1 week of finals in PA school is not enough):
1. Feed and hydrate yoself

The most important thing you can do for brain and yourself is to be well fed and drink plenty of water. Without food, you're more likely to get overwhelmed and irritable. I made sure I had plenty of snacks and food to survive finals week, even if that meant buying lunch a few times a week. I felt like I didn't have enough time to meal prep before finals (if you can manage to do it, more power to you) so I allowed myself to eat out more then I normally do (thanks Panera and Subway for holding me over).

2. Make a plan and stick with it

Most of my classmates and I use a planner to plan out our studying for each final. My best advice to you is to study a little each day for multiple finals. Never spend an entire day on just 1 class because then you'll have too many lectures to go through in one night and it's just not possible to get through it all. One of our professors made a good point once about how we should be studying a little bit of clinical medicine each night on top of other classes. I definitely saw the difference in my grades and my understanding of a certain organ system after I took her advice.

3. Know when to stop

Often times I am so focused on getting through the material that I don't realize that I stopped registering any information a while ago. I found myself doing the same thing the night before my surgery final and forced myself to stop studying and go to bed instead. I woke up early the next morning and finished reviewing before my final and it all worked out better that way in the end.

4. Call on your support system

Finals are hard and tears may be shed or just some extra support may be required from your loved ones. Pick up that phone and call the people who bring you comfort and make you laugh and help you forget about your finals-related stress for a few minutes. They'll be glad they were able to be there for you and you'll feel a sense of renewed strength that'll help you keep going!

5. Study with friends

I know not everyone likes to study with people so this may not apply to everyone, but I've discovered that PA School (and life in general) is less torturous when you have someone with you. My PA school friends are my sanity through this journey and I don't know what I'd do without them.

6. Get enough sleep

This is probably low on most people's priority list but usually is at the top of mine. Sleeping is so important if you want to make it through finals in one piece. I suggest getting AT LEAST 6 hours of shut eye (yes, even during finals) so you can function the next day and keep studying for the next final.

7. Take a break

Allow yourself 30-40 mins a day (not including lunch and dinner) where you're not studying. I am not the one to take naps (because I'm so bad at them; I usually can't wake myself up and keep sleeping for 2-3 hours) but all that changes during finals. I took 20 minute naps last week because it was the only way to keep going. You can also work out/go for runs to blow off some steam and get away from your desk. Do whatever works for you as long as it helps you get back to the books and focus afterwards.

8. Be smart about your caffeine intake

I try avoiding coffee after 12 pm because my body hates me and will keep me up at night if I drink it in the afternoons. However, the day before my last final, I found myself in line at our coffee shop at 3 pm. We had been going non-stop with finals for 2 weeks and I needed the extra push to make it through. I decided I could just crash the next day if I couldn't sleep that night (thankfully that wasn't a problem). My point is, drink your coffee/tea but don't over do it so much that it keeps you up at night.

9. All good hard things must come to an end

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, my friends. You will make it through this and soon you can take some time away from the books and enjoy some free time again. You're doing great, just keep pushing through! You've got this.

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