It may be hard to believe that the end of the fall semester is just around the corner. With only a few grading opportunities left in the term, it is more important than ever for students to maintain the progress that they have made in their classes. Your student will have term papers, final exams, presentations, and portfolios due in the span of just a few weeks. As family members you can help your student stay relaxed and productive during this potentially stressful time. Read below for five tips to help your students stay balanced, study effectively, and cultivate positive habits through the rest of the semester and beyond.
1. Stay Organized
Has your student peered inside that planner or updated his/her digital calendar lately? Deadlines and due dates sometimes change over the course of the semester: students should update time management systems to ensure that they know when final papers and projects are due. Visually realizing that a project is due in just a few weeks can engage facilitating anxiety (the good kind!) and motivate students to plan steps to avoid procrastination. Structuring study time and identifying the right locations in which to study can help students avoid time-wasting traps and foster accountability.
2. Identify a Support System and Utilize Campus Resources
The end of the semester is a good time to organize structured study groups with friends and classmates. Assigning group members different roles for the study sessions (one person makes a practice essay question for the group, another creates multiple choice problems, etc.) can help keep students on task. This is also a good time to ask your student how he/she is doing both academically and emotionally. If your student needs additional support through the end of the semester, Mason has a wealth of student support offices on campus – encourage your student to explore options through the Mason website: http://www.gmu.edu/resources/students/.
3. Plan Study Time to Integrate Stress Management
Encourage your student to study multiple subjects during any given day and schedule frequent, short breaks to bolster cognitive endurance and sustain motivation. One commonly employed strategy is using a timer: study for 20-30 minutes then program a 5-10 minute break followed by another 20-30 minute session. If your student is feeling particularly worried about completing a certain assignment, encourage him/her to keep a distraction log outlining any worries or intrusive thoughts while studying – it can help your student identify thought patterns or issues that can then be discussed and addressed.
4. Practice Mindfulness
At its core, mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment: mindfulness practice promotes well-being by helping your student regulate thoughts and focus on what he/she can control – the present. The present can be full of positive study plans, time for healthy release, adequate preparation for the assignments ahead, or simply the quiet and stillness that can be accessed by focusing on each passing breath. Counseling and Psychological Services offers a weekly mindfulness practice that can introduce students to this practice and it can be a nice complement to other academic skills workshops: http://caps.gmu.edu/students/academic-skills-workshops/.
5. Students Need to Communicate with Faculty if Problems Arise
Many times students will miss classes or need to request extensions on assignments for important and valid reasons – professors need to know what is going on in order to be in a position to both understand the student’s situation and reply with an alternative option if appropriate. It is helpful for students to see professors as educational allies: students are enrolled in the class to learn and demonstrate knowledge; professors are there to impart or facilitate that knowledge and guide students in the learning process.
We hope that these tips will make the final stretch of the semester more balanced and less stressful for you and your students. We wish your students success on their final exams!
Learning Services provides a full range of free workshops to help students navigate the demands of the semester: from time management, managing performance anxiety, mindfulness, and college reading strategies to sessions devoted entirely to preparing for final exams. If your student is interested in these sessions, encourage them to register online at: http://caps.gmu.edu/learning-services/.
Assistant Director and Outreach Coordinator
Counseling and Psychological Services