Your Guide to Finals Season (from a Transfer Student!)

Hello! My name is Katarina, and I’m a senior studying History and minoring in Hispanic Studies here at William & Mary. I’m also a proud transfer student, which means I’ve experienced finals at not one, but two colleges! I’m not saying I’m a pro, but I have had my fair share of finals seasons throughout the course of my college experience. As a transfer student, it can be daunting to approach your first finals season at a new institution. As we approach the end of the semester (!), I’m here to offer some tips and tricks I’ve acquired to help finals go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Prioritize your mental health. This one is definitely the most important one here! Finals can be stressful, but that’s a reflection of the fact that you care about your academics and want to do well. Try to set aside some time — whether it be a few minutes or a few hours if your schedule allows it — to dedicate to doing something that cheers you up. I’ve found that taking walks around campus, in Colonial Williamsburg, or on the trails on campus really helps me to clear my head. Try to get enough rest, too! I know it’s hard, but you’ll thank me later. Finally, the Counseling Center and Wellness Center are always available if you want some support!
  2. Connect with loved ones. Whether it’s a call to a family member, lunch with a friend, or writing a letter or e-mail to someone you haven’t connected with in a while, connecting in any way to someone you love is a great way to take your mind off of the stress of finals and remind yourself that there are always things that matter more than school!
  3. Go to office hours. William & Mary is ranked #7 in the NATION for undergraduate teaching for a reason! Make use of office hours with your professors. They’re just people! I’ve found that they’re always more than willing to help if you need it,  but it’s also equally useful to just stop in for a chat about expectations for the final.
  4. Set up a study group. In a class I was struggling in last year, this made all the difference! Having a group to ask questions, brainstorm, and share the workload of creating a study guide with is a huge asset. Plus, having a group to share the stress with helped me feel a lot less lonely as a new transfer student. You can reserve a room at Swem Library to meet up!
  5. Get organizedMake a list, chart, or some form of document with everything you have to get done before the end of the semester. It can feel daunting to see a huge list at first, but it will help you to wrap your mind around your to-do list for the next few weeks. Take the time to cross things off your list as you complete them, too; it’s such a relieving feeling!

    Large open area of the Swem Library foyer with displays, computer stations and wayfinding screens.

    Swem is the go-to place for any kind of studying!

  6. Switch up your study location. When I’m in a big push to complete a big assignment (or lots of them!), it helps me a lot to create some variety by studying in different locations. If you really need to focus, the third floor of Swem Library (the quiet floor) is a great option. If you’re up for a walk and still need to focus, try heading to the Wolf Law Library. Not only is it a gorgeous building, studying around dedicated law students is a great way to boost motivation! I’ve also been enjoying the newly-renovated part of the Sadler Center, known to students as “the slice.” If you prefer a more casual setting, try a local coffee shop. Aroma’s is a classic option, but it can get busy. If you’re up for a walk, Tipsy Beans Café is a solid option, and if you or a friend have a car, Column 15 and Hohl are both great options, too! Finally, an underappreciated study spot is the Museum Café in the Colonial Williamsburg Art Museum. Admission is free with your student ID, and you can grab a snack or explore the museum to take a break from studying!
  7. Participate in W&M traditions. This is a fun one! Even though you may feel like you don’t have time for anything these days, seasonal traditions like the Yule Log ceremony are great ways to connect with the campus community and embrace tradition during an otherwise stressful time. Performances from student groups, President Rowe reading a winter story to the audience, free hot cider and cookies, and fireworks in Colonial Williamsburg — what’s not to love? Don’t forget to throw a sprig of holly into the Wren Building’s fireplace for good luck on exams!

    Desks and bookshelves at the Wolf Law Library

    The law library is a great place to do some quiet, focused studying.

  8. Remember that finals are temporary. You’ve worked hard all semester, so finish strong! In a few weeks, you’ll be on Winter Break. Thanks for reading, and best of luck!
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