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20 Tips for Managing the Last Month of the Semester 

Adapted from

The semester’s winding down — just as you’re winding up With a few weeks left and you’ve still got two papers, five finals, and a classroom presentation, to boot. How to manage? Here are 20 tips for taking control of your courses – and your life – during the crucial last month of the semester:

  1. Plan to work harder. You might be used to thinking of college as a two- or three-day-a-week job. No more. Come the last month, you’ll need to turn it up a notch – or for some, a number of notches – to get done what you need to get done.
  2. Triage your preparation. Now that time is at a premium, devote most of your time to the reading that really counts. And ditch the reading that’s just for general background, additional detail, or mere enjoyment (don’t even think about recommended reading). By now, you should know whether the reading is really doing any work or is merely filling (or wasting) time.
  3. Don’t blow off the classes. Because you’ll get more out of the professor’s one-hour lecture than out of three hours of studying on your own. Besides, the closer you get to the final, the more likely the prof’s going to drop hints in lecture about what’s going to be on the final. And how best to study for the final.
  4. Try the homework. Professors are prone to putting homework questions, or variants of homework problems, on the tests. Don’t trade short-term time saving for long-term point loss. And don’t skip out on any quizzes, either.
  5. Look for the structure. Every course has a “plot” or direction of argument – both from lecture to lecture and within individual lectures. Search for it. The better you are at figuring out the plot, the more efficiently you’ll be able to take notes, review the material, and study for the tests.
    Extra Pointer. Look to the syllabus, the schedule of lectures and assignments, the sequence of your notes, and any verbal clues the professor gives, for the key points.
  6. Avoid “make work” activities. Some students are tempted to copy over their notes, go over the readings, visit other sections, and listen to the lectures again on their iPod. Resist these temptations. Such extraneous activities make you think you’re doing something when what you’re really doing is putting off something else: your papers and tests.
  7. Take advantage of high-value extras. Review sessions, study guides, sample tests, and extra office hours are all designed to help you increase your chances of doing well. And be sure to check out the course webpage (if any). Often, profs put high-value lecture notes, outlines, study guide, and sample exams there that you’d be a fool to miss.
  8. Cuddle up to the TA. Teaching assistants are especially willing to help in the last few weeks of the semester. They feel sorry for you and are probably having to take finals and prepare for exams themselves (so they understand what you’re going through). (If your school doesn’t have TA’s, hit up the professor. He or she can help, too.)
    4-Star Tip. If you’d like individualized suggestions about what you can do to do better, it’d be a good idea to bring along your old tests and papers. That way the TA will be able to focus in on your mistakes and make suggestions for improvement. Lucky you.
  9. Phone a friend. Hopefully one who is willing to form a “study group” with you. Talking through the material will not only help you internalize it better, you might even get new insights that will help you with your test or paper.
  10. Consider campus resources. The writing center, tutoring program, or academic advancement center might be exactly what you need to light a fire under you.
  11. Seek forgiveness. If there’s an assignment you haven’t handed in (and taken a zero), now’d be a good time to ask the professor (or TA) if there’s any way you can hand in the paper late for at least some partial credit. If you’re apologetic enough, you might be able to rescue some of your grade.
  12. Manage the stress. The last month of the semester is a bitch. So, no matter how pressed you are for time, make time for meditation, yoga, exercise, or whatever it is you do to minimize stress. If you’re feeling really bent out of shape, check out counseling services.
  13. Cut down on the partying. Right now focusing on the academics is job 1. There’ll be plenty of time for celebrating come holiday time.
  14. Think twice about stimulants. What might seem like a good idea before the last calculus hourly might seem less good when you’re still Red Bull-ed or Vivarin-ed up (or worse) three days later.
  15. Postpone the next semester. Next semester’s courses, your choice of major, your internship and/or summer abroad plans should not become the primary focus of attention and worry during this already tense period. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re helping your situation now when you’re only scheming for future semesters.
  16. Get support from friends and family. Remind them that the last month of the semester is your “make it or break it time,” and enlist their help and understanding.
  17. Don’t run yourself ragged. Yes, you still need your zzz’s. And you need to stay healthy. So, hop into bed and tell all your germy friends to keep their distance.
  18. Don’t obsess over any single defeat. You’re taking four or five classes so don’t let one screw-up lead to three or four other screw-ups. Try to compartmentalize your feelings so that your upset about one bad course (which might not even be your fault) doesn’t spill over into all your (quite good, now that you think of it) courses.
  19. Remain positive. In many courses, the final counts a disproportionate amount of the grade. So, no matter how badly you’re doing – or think you’re doing, if your course is graded on a curve that you don’t yet have – be optimistic. Acing the final will, in most courses, make up for just about any earlier work.
  20. Focus on why you came in the first place. Remember when you were super excited about all the things you’d learn in college and all the skills you’d develop? And even looking forward to these very courses? Recover those thoughts. They’ll help you remain upbeat and motivated through the ups and downs of any course. And might even give a sense of purpose to all your suffering. Which would not be nothing …

Counseling Services can help- Call +1 (607) 778-5210 or email us at, or check us out at Counseling Services to schedule an appointment with one of our trained professionals.

Mindfulness Monday out of the Counseling Corner:

Meditate Month

Meditation has been shown to help with stress-relief and encouraging better sleep.

Take this challenge on – meditate each day for a minimum of 5 minutes – maybe challenge yourself to working up to a 20 minute meditation by the end of the month.

Meditation can be done anywhere and can reap many benefits for your body and mind.

You can find meditations on YouTube, through the various app stores and online in general. Who’s up for the challenge?

A great idea – since this is a month long challenge – journal about this each day, every few days or each week! 

Counseling Services can help- Call +1 (607) 778-5210 or email us at, or check us out at Counseling Services to schedule an appointment with one of our trained professionals.

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