Preparing for Finals: Advice from a Fellow Pre-Med

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Lauren Winsor is currently studying at Wellesley College through the Killam Fellowships Program. Prior to her semester in the States, she studied psychology at Newfoundland's Memorial University, where she has contributed to multiple research studies. A Rhodes Scholarship Finalist, Lauren aspires to become a practicing physician and research scientist, focusing on mental health and health promotion. In the short article below, Lauren provides five quick tips for pre-meds in the thick of finals season.


Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and spring is in the air. While most people would describe this season as “spring,” university students far and wide know that it is, in fact, finals season. This time of year can be very stressful, with seemingly endless work and desperate attempts to achieve your GPA goals. While finals season tends to emphasize the “dying” aspect of studying, here are  five tips that you can use to ace finals, and launch into summer.


Schedule Your Workload

Whatever you do, try to avoid taking a trip to procrastination nation this finals season. Even though it is natural to avoid studying or completing final projects because they are stressful, this avoidance will only increase stress in the long run. Further, rushed studying or frantic essay writing tends to produce lower-quality work, leading to potentially lower grades, and chronic GPA stress. The best way to avoid these outcomes is to start studying as early as possible, and pay attention to your deadlines. Research has found that both self- and externally-imposed deadlines are effective mechanisms to reduce academic procrastination. By creating a structured work schedule with internal and external  deadlines, you can take advantage of the procrastination-reducing effects of both, and get your work finished punctually and with minimal stress.

Balance your time

Pre-med students are notoriously busy. Extracurricular activities, volunteering, shadowing, internships, and jobs can be taxing on a good day, and become overwhelming  during finals season. In my experience, most coordinators are very understanding of academic demands during finals season, and are more than willing to allow for time off during reading period and final exam week. For activities that you are unable to cease during finals season, try scheduling fewer hours, or building your work or volunteer commitments into your study schedule.

Use scientifically-supported study methods

Although science exams may be the bane of your existence during finals season, there are plenty of scientific studies that have revealed the most efficient ways to study. See, science is not so bad after all! From spaced studying (instead of dreaded cramming) to testing your knowledge with practice problems, there are plenty of effective methods. Check out our blog post on the best ways to use science to improve your studying this finals season.


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High grades are important for medical school applications, but they are not more important than mental and emotional wellness.

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Streamline your studying

While science can inform your studying and work habits, implementing these methods is sometimes harder than it looks. In order to take advantage of scientific study and work practices, you will need to eliminate distractions and find a space and study resources that are conducive to your chosen studying style. Read our blog post here for five tips on streamlining your studying.

Take care of your mental health and wellness

Finals season is stressful; it’s an unfortunate reality that most people experience and are forced to accept in the name of academic achievement. Pre-med students are well aware that high grades are important for medical school applications, but they are not more important than maintaining mental and emotional wellness. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take breaks and try some relaxation techniques suggested by the Mayo Clinic to improve stress management. When I feel stressed during finals season, I like to relax by doing things that I enjoy, such as taking my dog for a walk around the neighbourhood.

If you feel that your stress levels are interfering with other aspects of your life or your ability to succeed academically, consider speaking to someone at you university’s Counselling Centre, or to someone who you trust. Both of the universities that I have attended – Memorial University and Wellesley College – have excellent counselling services available to students who are dealing with mental illness or mental health concerns, and are great resources when you need a little extra help.


Conclusion

Finals season is infamous for procrastination and stress, but it does not have to be this way. As a pre-med student, there are five tricks that you can use to ace finals and keep your stress at a healthy level. To recap, here are five actionable items to help make this finals season as gentle as a spring breeze:

1.       Schedule your time with self-imposed and external deadlines in mind;

2.       Balance your time between academic life, extracurricular activities, and work;

3.       Make use of scientifically-supported methods for efficient studying;

4.       Streamline your studying to make it fit into your life and academic style;

5.       Take care of your mental health so that you can perform at your best level.


About Lauren

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Lauren grew up in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, which is the most easterly city in Canada, and studied psychology at Memorial University. Currently based out of Wellesley, Massachusetts, she is completing the final semester of her Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree at Wellesley College through Fulbright Canada’s Killam Fellowships Program. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys volunteering, playing music, and spending time with her friends, family, and wonderful dog. Lauren will begin her medical career in August 2018 as a member of Memorial University Faculty of Medicine’s Class of 2022.

 

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