My Top 10 Tips for Finals

As a senior at Siena, I have been through the finals process over and over again; I know the stress of the last weeks of the semester and trying to get everything handed in before heading home for a month-long break. Here are my top 10 tips for finals!

  1. Study wherever you can focus best. Any tips you read about finals often suggest only studying in the library or in a classroom, a place where you won’t get distracted by your phone or friends. For me, personally, the library isn’t always the place where I can focus. The quiet floor is just too quiet, and the main level sometimes gets too loud. I spend a lot of my time studying and writing my essays in Casey’s because I work well with medium-level background noise.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to study in groupsAnother common tip you’ll hear is to study or work with friends. Though studying in a group can be helpful and boost memory retention, I find myself getting off-topic and distracted with my friends around. I know I work best as a solo studier, so I spend most of my study/writing time alone. If you know you study better in a group, be sure to use the method that works best for you.
  3. Take breaksSometimes when you’re so close to finishing your review guide or closing in on that concluding paragraph, it feels counterintuitive to stop working. But be sure to listen to your body during these hours-long Tstudy sessions. If you’re not eating, drinking water, or moving around enough, your body will respond in a negative way, making it harder for you to concentrate. Consider taking a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes of work.
  4. Review class notes. Anyone who knows me knows I am an extensive note-taker. Most exam or final paper material is discussed in class, so be sure to pay attention in those final days of the semester.
  5. Make a study guide. Most of my finals at this point in college are papers, but when I have a test coming up, I always make a study guide. This usually consists of just copying my class notes, unless the professor was generous enough to share a review guide. If your professor gives you study materials, use them. They’ll only help you in the long run.
  6. Create your own study playlist. Studying/writing with music is a dividing decision among college students. I personally love having music playing while I’m writing an essay or reviewing flash cards. The type of music you listen to can affect the way you study as well. I would suggest listening to something more ambient and instrumental to keep your stress levels low, but listen to whatever makes you feel motivated and allows you to focus.
  7. Hit the gym or do yoga. When I’m in the middle of finals week with no end in sight, I always try to exercise. Exercise is a form of stress relief for me, and it also gives you a break from studying. If you’re not into running or lifting weights, yoga is a great alternative. Yoga is known for helping manage stress. If you’re a beginner and want to learn, Siena offers free yoga classes. These yoga and mindful meditation sessions will take place on Monday Dec. 3rd and Monday Dec. 10th in the MAC aerobics room.
  8. Talk to someone. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I usually call my mom or one of my close friends. Talking to a loved one can help you feel less stressed about your upcoming work and the end of the semester, so take the time to reach out and have a conversation with someone.
  9. Turn off your phone notifications. We are constantly bombarded with notifications – from texts, emails, social media. With Apple’s new “screen time” feature, I am much more aware of the ridiculous amount of time I waste scrolling on my phone. During finals, my phone is easily one of my biggest distractions. I always have it within reach while studying or writing, which makes it so tempting to check it every few minutes. Turning off notifications or turning on “Do Not Disturb” can really help with the urge to check your phone so frequently.
  10. Don’t study the night before the examThis might seem contradictory, but I think it’s important to give your brain a break the night before a big test. Cramming for exams negatively impacts your memory retention and increases stress, so let yourself relax the night before. Get a good night’s rest, watch a movie, or relax with friends.

Good luck with your finals, Saints! Hang in there – it’s almost time for the month-long break!

Using the Library as a Resource

I’ve worked at the library’s circulation desk for over three years now, and I’ve noticed that everyone uses the library differently, whether it be a place for group project meetings, hanging out with friends, checking out books, or for studying. I remember learning about how to use the library in my First Year Seminar class, but there are a lot of resources the library has to offer that many students don’t know about. 

Extended hours & 24-hour computer lab

During finals, the library extends its hours to give students additional study time. Starting on Sunday December 2nd, the library will be open until 2am Sunday through Thursday, and open until 11pm Friday and Saturday. If the 2am closing time is still too early, however, the library’s computer lab is open 24 hours, giving students a quiet, productive space to study in the late hours of the night. The lab is accessible to all students by swiping in with your Saint Card. The computer lab also has printers and computers available for student use.

Standish Café

The library opened the café last year due to student demand. It’s a small coffee and snack bar by the study rooms on the main floor. Instead of having to walk to the dining hall or Casey’s, especially when it’s cold out, students can purchase pastries, snacks, and drinks from the café. There is also a Starbucks machine that dispenses coffee, hot chocolate, or chai tea, so you can get your caffeine fix without having to disrupt your studying.

Reference librarians 

The reference librarians are another useful resource in the library. They work at the reference desk on the main floor of the library and are available to assist students in the research process, especially with finding sources both inside and outside of the library. The library itself offers a wide variety of materials, from books to DVDS to current magazines and newspapers. It also provides extended services like ConnectNY and Interlibrary Loan (ILL), which allow students to check out books or request articles from other college libraries and have them delivered to Siena’s circulation desk or made available electronically. The library itself has over 150 online databases available for student use. These sources are especially useful in writing research papers because students are able to search for reputable, peer-reviewed sources that can be used in academic writing. For help on using these databases, ask any student worker at the circulation desk or a reference librarian.

The Writing Center

Writing research papers adds to the stress of finals. Luckily, the library has a student-run Writing Center, located on the lower level of the library. At the Writing Center, student workers help writers enhance their work in terms of style, cohesiveness, and organization. If citations like MLA, APA, or Chicago are something you struggle with, the Writing Center is also able to help students craft citations. Make an appointment at the Writing Center here.

Reserve a study room

The library definitely gets busier as the semester draws to a close, which is why the library offers study rooms available for reservation. There are nine study group rooms available for bookings on both the main and second floors, which can be done through the library’s website here. The rooms come with a whiteboard, table, and chairs to accommodate groups. Whiteboard markers and erasers can also be checked out with your Saint Card at the circ desk.

Finals are a crazy time of year, but the library is a great resource, so use it! With assistance from librarians, databases, and the Writing Center, students are able to hand in their best possible papers, presentations, and final exams at the end of the semester. Good luck studying, and ace those finals!

Keeping Your Mind Healthy During Finals

With only two weeks of classes left in the fall semester, students are starting to feel the stress of incoming final papers, projects, and exams. It’s hard to self-motivate, especially so close to the month-long winter break.

It’s important not to let your mental health fall to the wayside during finals week. Taking care of your mental health is vital to ending the year on a high note. Here are some ways to keep your body and mind healthy as you prepare to finish the semester!

Map out your game plan

Before my first set of finals freshmen year, I made a list of all the assignments, projects, and exams I had due in the last weeks of the semester. It can be daunting to see all the work you have to do at first, but it helps keep your organized and less likely to miss a final assignment. Making a weekly study schedule helps keep you on-task. Schedule what you’re going to study and when, as well as schedule in time for relaxation and de-stressing!

Make time for sleep 

Sometimes pulling an all-nighter seems like the only way you’ll get all your assignments handed in on time. But losing sleep, especially during a stressful time of the semester, can negatively impact your memory retention, mood, and productivity. College finals are meant to make you think, so if you’re running on less than five hours of sleep, you’ll have a hard time comprehending questions and coming up answers.

Use caffeine in moderation

Going along with the importance of sleep, caffeine should only be consumed in moderation. The recommended intake for college students is no more than 400mg a day. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to heightened anxiety and trouble sleeping, so make sure you’re not drinking a latte too close to bedtime.

Don’t skip class the day before finals

It’s the end of the semester and you’ve got one skip left for your class. It’s tempting to use it on the last day of class, but don’t skip so close to finals! Many professors use the last days of class to give important information about the final exams or projects, and also will often have review sessions in class to help students prepare.

Schedule breaks for yourself

When you’re in the middle of writing a 10-page research paper, stopping to take a break feels counterintuitive. Cramming for final exams or frantically writing a final paper creates anxiety, which can negatively impact your final grades. Set up a schedule for yourself, like taking a 10-minute break for every hour of work. Taking a break can include having a snack, taking a walk, or just stepping away from your computer for a few minutes.

It’s a given that everyone wants to do well on their final exams, projects, and papers and secure an A for the class. But it’s important to take care of your mental health while striving for good grades. By making time for sleep, limiting caffeine, and scheduling breaks, it can make all the difference in having a successful finals week. Good luck, Saints!

Thinking About Grad School?

With registration in full swing, students are encouraged to think about their plans after graduation. One option many students consider is attending graduate school to get a Master’s degree and sometimes continue on to get their PhD. Continuing your education post-undergrad is a big decision, and it’s important to know all the factors that weigh into this choice. On Wed. Nov. 7, the English Department hosted a Grad School Panel where Drs. Snyder, Spain-Savage, and Dearing shared their own graduate school experiences and gave advice to prospective students. They primarily talked about their experience in grad school for English, but the advice they shared can largely be applied to any grad school program. Dr. Snyder explained the panel intended to “demystify” the process of applying to graduate school.

Dr. Spain-Savage talked about the importance of deadlines in graduate school, emphasizing that it is nothing like the undergraduate workload. In grad school, you impose your own deadlines, she explained, which is one of the reasons why not all graduates complete a dissertation. Unlike the strict schedules of undergrad, graduate school grants you the freedom to set your own deadlines, which can be troubling to students who struggle with time management or self-motivation. Dr. Spain-Savage also commented on the importance of finding a program that fosters and supports your area of specialization. Dr. Snyder shared his personal experience with grad school. He said, “You never feel smarter than when you’re in grad school.” Dr. Snyder emphasized the importance of doing research in the grad school search to find out where the funding is, showing that it is possible to get your Master’s and even your PhD and not have to pay for it. Dr. Dearing, fresh out of grad school last May, discussed the importance of knowing what to expect when continuing your education. She emphasized that graduate school is “not undergrad part two,” but schooling at another level. The panelists then shared their advice on applying for and attending graduate school. Another important part of applying for grad school is the application itself. Applicants usually need a certain number of letters of recommendation. Dr. Snyder emphasized the importance of asking your professors early for these letters and providing them with information to help write your letter of recommendation, like a resume, a personal statement, and a writing sample. Similarly, letters of recommendation should show different sides of you and your personality to reflect how you will fit into a particular program. Talking to current grad students is a great way to fully understand the experience. Because they are currently enrolled in programs, they will be honest and realistic about what grad school is really like. Similarly, ask graduate students what they’re doing once they graduate to get an idea of available jobs and realistic goals to set. Another helpful tip is to reach out to the department of a graduate school you’re interested in and ask to be put in contact with a graduate student.

One big concern for undergrads looking towards grad school is the debt. After finishing undergrad, most students have to begin working off their debt from student loans. All three panelists emphasized the importance of finding programs that will help fund you or at least help you pay for the process.  The takeaway? Research, research, research before applying to a program. Research can find you funding to help pay for your education and place you in an academic environment you thrive in. “You have to stay true to what you love,” Dr. Spain-Savage said. Graduate school can be a great opportunity for undergrad students to reach their potential and find themselves in the process. The panelists emphasized to not be afraid to go somewhere new, especially when you’re young. “It’s fun to live somewhere you’re not staying,” Dr. Snyder said.

Grad school is a big decision with many deciding factors and it is not for everyone. It is important to be well-informed about the goals, challenges, and benefits of attending graduate school. If grad school is something you’re considering or even just starting to think about, reach out to your professors, especially those working in your field of interest. They are great resources and are almost always willing to share their own education experience with students. Your academic advisor is also a great resource if you have questions about graduate school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, reach out, and research the process!

A Letter to the Siena College Class of 2021- Welcome Home!

 

 

Hi everyone!

First of all, I want to say congratulations! You have worked so hard to get here and every single one of you should be very proud of yourselves. Second, you should know that the decision to come HERE, to Siena College, will be one of the best decisions you will ever make in your lifetime.  As a second semester senior, I am writing this letter with mere weeks until graduation and I can’t help thinking back to when I was in your shoes. It really is ok to be nervous, but it’s ok to be excited to! College is going to be a time to figure out who you are and what your dreams and aspirations are going to be for the future. You’re going to meet amazing people and learn so much that it may even feel a tiny bit overwhelming at first! I want to share with you guys some of the tips that my friends and I have learned over the years to have the absolute best college experience, tips that have truly made Siena my own home away home.

  1. Be friends with everyone: You’re ALL going to be in the same position of moving away from home and that can be wicked nerve-wracking, especially if you live a little bit further away! I’m originally from Boston, Massachusetts which is three hours away from Siena, and it definitely was a little strange to be moving to a state where I didn’t really know anyone.  However, the friends I have made over the past four years have literally become like my second family! When you move in for orientation weekend in the fall, make sure you are friendly and say hi to everyone! Strike up a conversation with your hall mate or with the person sitting next to you in your 8am and find out who they are.  I actually met my best friend in the third floor communal bathroom of Ryan Hall and we ended up living together during our junior and senior years!
  2. GET INVOLVED: People have probably been telling you this left and right, but it’s true! Joining teams or clubs or organizations here at Siena is soooooo important because it not only gives you fun things to do each week, but it also gets you involved with the rest of the community.  We have an enormous list of things to join and at the beginning of the fall, you’ll have the chance to attend the Club Fair to sign up for various organizations.  Over the past four years, I’ve been involved with the Siena College Mentoring Program, Her Campus Siena, the Siena College Irish Step Dance team and the Siena College English Society and I’ve been able to attend events held by other clubs that my friends are in! There truly is something here at Siena for everyone and you’ll be able to form relationships with other students AND faculty that will last a lifetime.
  3. Be willing to learn: Your professors and classes are going to be some of the most influential things in your life during the next four years and as you choose and declare your major (if you haven’t already), you’re going to be able to take classes that will make you excited for future endeavors to come! You’re also going to be required to take a series of CORE classes, which will open your mind to other areas of study, such as art, science, religion and math.  Be open to what these classes and professors are teaching you and don’t be afraid to be curious and to ask questions! Some of the best classes I’ve taken here at Siena have been part of the CORE list and I really have been able to take some of the skills learned in these classes to more professional settings.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone: I know how scary this can be, but it’s also incredibly important! You may find that you love something that you would have never tried before in high school or that you love a place you’ve never been to.  Before coming to Siena, I was a little bit more on the quiet side and had done sports my entire life.  Although I still have a love for fitness and being healthy, I have joined so many different clubs, which have allowed me to become so much more outgoing! The relationships I have formed here at Siena are some of the most special I have ever had and some of them have formed just from us stepping outside of our comfort zones!

Check out our social media pages for updates and information about what’s going on around campus!

Facebook: Siena College School of Liberal Arts

Twitter: @siena_lib_arts

Instagram: @sienalibarts

You all are going to do amazing here at Siena, and I’m not just saying that! You’ve worked so hard to get here and it also doesn’t hurt that you’re about to come to the BEST school in the world. 🙂 Be excited, be adventurous and most importantly, be a SAINT.

Julia Lowney, Communications/Social Media Intern at the School of Liberal Arts

English major; Marketing and Writing Communications Minors; VERY proud member of the Siena College Class of 2017