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My First Semester – Weeks 10 to 12 – Part 4

Week 10

Week 10:  Right now you’re probably hitting your stride with taking notes, going to tutorials, getting caught up in the readings.  But you may notice that your end of term papers are coming up fast. Most classes that don’t have a final exam usually have a large paper due at the end of the term.  These can be a pretty big chunk of your grade so make sure that you are setting aside plenty of time to get it done.  Now is the time to be honest with yourself on how good of a writer you really are.  If no midterm paper was due you may be in for a surprise.  I’ve heard many a student get a paper back, surprised, that the grade was nowhere near as high as they anticipated.  Make sure you attend office hours for both your TA and your professor and get one-on-one questions answered.  Your professors are pretty opinionated and may help focus you on your research paper topic.

byron_wiegand_animal_sciences_0039 By CAGNR on Flickr

byron_wiegand_animal_sciences_0039 By CAGNR on Flickr

Chop up your paper into bits. If you need five sources maybe just research one a day the weeks before you start writing.  This will give you time to think about your paper and how you want to approach it.  For other writing tips there are plenty of resources.  The U of T writing advice page (link below) has a topic checklist and suggestions on dealing with writer’s block.  If nothing else discuss your paper with a friend or partner who is not in the same class. I find that my partner often comes up with questions that I may not be addressing in my paper.  This was especially helpful in First Year papers where you had to explain theories to show you understand them.  If you can’t explain it to the average person, how will you explain it to your professor?

Week 11

Now is the time to start prepping for Finals week.  My first finals week my family’s diet consisted of pizza, pizza, and more pizza.  When your 9 year old tells you they are “Pizza’d out” you know it’s time to reorganize the game plan.  I was still struggling with balancing home and student life.  There were all day study sessions that my fellow students enjoyed but I had no time to camp out in the library – I had family responsibilities like making dinner and being there when the kids got off the bus. Now after four years I know that I have to plan on being busy during finals.  Now depending on your household this may be cooking larger meals and freezing them to defrost during Finals Week.  Or it may be buying frozen lasagna or prepared meals.  You might have to schedule babysitters to watch your children while you study.  Remember that getting your degree is what the family is rooting for you to do.  They’re will be sacrifices that you have to make and it may seem like a long period of time to study before finals come but believe me it’s not.

Week 12

You just attended your last class of the semester! Go you!

Exam By Alberto G. on Flickr

Exam By Alberto G. on Flickr

You walk out feeling like a boss but in reality you have finals coming up.  You have two weeks to study before you enter in the finals exam period.  The library has turned into a huge slumber party.  Hushed areas are in effect.  There is an eerie calm before the storm. Check out the Exam Jams, they were a good roadmap on what to expect during the Exam. Either way, I get nervous before EVERY exam.  Even the ones I know I’ll do well on.  It just depends on how your nerves are.  My Finals protocol is to ALWAYS get 8 hours of sleep the night before.  Learning something at 2 am is not going to help me if I only have four hours of sleep.  If anything wake up early.  If you’re feeling fried go to bed early and set the alarm clock to study after a full night of sleep.  EAT something before the exam.  I don’t like a heavy meal so I usually just have a protein bar.  You don’t want your stomach growling while you’re drawing Venn diagrams.  The night before the exam I pack my exam pack, it consists of my T-Card which is a requirement (or a government I.D.), two mechanical pencils, an extra eraser, extra lead, two pens and a calculator (only if allowed).  Just put it in a clear baggie so the next day you just grab it and go.  My children have plenty of cute and funny erasers so I let them pick one out for me as a good luck charm. Unlike classes, exams don’t start 10 minutes after the hour.  You should be at the exam 15-20 minutes BEFORE the exam starts.  If you’re considered late the TA’s will hold you at the door and make you sign a slip admitting you were late.  Not the worst thing in the world but it helps raise the anxiety level.  Since I live on campus I leave the cell phone at home, but if I drove I would leave it in my car.  If you’re in an exam,  your phone must be turned off in the front of the class anyway.  You can request a plastic bag and have it under your seat, but for me it’s one less thing to worry about.  Also no coffees are allowed, only a CLEAR water bottle.  This happened a lot during my First Year exams where people were asked to go dump out their $5.59 Venti Latte they just purchased. As you look at your Final Exam booklet take a breather and a brief moment to reflect and live in the moment, you have made it through your first semester and the only thing between you and your credit is this exam.  Look at your good luck eraser and know that your whole family is cheering you on.

Advice on Academic Writing:  http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/general