You’ve all seen it, the movie or tv show with “exam week” where people are miserable and sleepless and lacking in personal hygiene. One of the scariest prospects of starting college was not being sure what to expect with exams. It’s a scary thought, having your whole semester and GPA put on the line for the sake of a test that’s worth 40% of your grade. I thought I’d share the real college exam experience.
- Dead Week doesn’t do sh*t for you: I’m an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, a wonderful but notoriously stressful, competitive university, and we get this sweet little boon called RRR Week or, as we called it Dead Week, where you have no classes and are free to study. Now, if you’re one of those spritely, intelligent humans who actively practices self-control, this is perfect opportunity to delve deep into the content you need to review and get ready to ace that final! … I’m not one of those people. I’m literal trash, and so are most of my friends (they won’t mind the characterization). I’m just not able to prep like that, spreading the work out over days. For me, a task will take up as much time as a I make available for it. So Dead Week is mostly a week-long nap and hangout and get boba and not do anything I should be doing marathon. If you utilize it properly, you’ll make your life 200 times easier. And some people do really do that, but the rest of us just use it to kick-back and maybe do a bit of revision.
- You can sleep when you’re dead: You will quickly learn that sleep is for the weak, and that you cannot afford to be weak. Get ready to load up on enough caffeine to take down an adult rhinoceros and hit the books for 12 to 24 hours straight. The thing is, it’s a part of finals culture, and everyone else is doing it too, which makes it sort of fun.
- Everyone is miserable, but miserable together, and therefore weirdly happy: Exams are stressful beyond belief (if you care about grades, which some people don’t), but there is a sense of relatability and solidarity that is actually kind of invigorating.
- Personal hygiene will go out the window: Not yours necessarily (but probably at least a little). For me, I force myself to rinse off everyday, wash my face, do a little bit of makeup because when I look okay, I feel better. But believe me, there. will. be. exceptions. I’ve seen people actually not leave the library to shower for like 4 days, to the point where they reek. It’s tragic and gross, but amusing. I’m just saying, there’s no shame in switching to sweats and messy buns for a week.
- You’ll kind of hate yourself: At least I do. Every term, I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed… and then I drop the ball like Steve Harvey at Miss Universe. You will despise yourself at least a little for every lecture you missed and for every study session that didn’t happen and for the notes you didn’t take. But you and your friends can turn that angst into self-deprecating humor that hurts so good.
- Memes galore: The best part about finals week is the amazing memes that make it clear that we’re all garbage, but united garbage.
- Study dates are the bomb: My girlfriends have been at my apartment almost every night this week until at least 3 or 4 am with our textbooks out, 3 sheets to the wind on coffee, and Harry Potter movies playing in the background for emotional support. Your friends are your lifeline during this harrowing time in your life. We’ve pulled all nighters together, dropped each other off to exams, picked up snacks and coffee for each other, and even called your friend’s roommate to wake them up because if they oversleep (as in getting more than 3 hours consecutively) and can’t study enough before the final later, they will hate you and themselves. Like I said, it’s a culture.
- Decompressing is important: You cannot just study un-movingly for 36 hours straight (I’ve tried). It makes your back hurt, and your a$$ if we’re being honest. Taking a five or ten minute walk every couple of hours and stretching and watching a clip from the Daily Show is just practicing good mental health. It’s worth it to take a couple minutes away because you’ll come back refocused.
- You’ll reach a threshold of “f*ck it” that even you can’t believe: And it’s normal, and it will pass, and so will you. Probably. Your odds are good. You’ll get your freaking out hat on about two hours before the exam. Bad for you, great for your friends’ entertainment.
- You’re probably gonna lose it at least once during your exam: It happens to the best of us. You’ll see an ID term you’ve never even heard of, or look at a prompt that seems completely beyond you. And you’ll have a contained 25-second-long panic attack and then tackle it.
- It’s bad, but not that bad: Everyone manages to get through. So too shall you. But at the end, you’ll feel so relieved and proud of yourself.
You got this!
Cheers to saving the semester,