Dear Kid,

Yes, it is that time. The time when professors gleefully put together complex questions designed to assess whether you were paying attention October 3rd at 3:24pm. The time when student services doubles the amount of coffee it brews every day. The time when the word “sleep” surreptitiously disappears from the dictionary. Yes, it’s Finals Week.

College is not high school (you’ve probably figured that out by now, but it never hurts to point things out). Studying for exams in college is not like studying in high school (ditto on the obvious).

Being the kind of mother that I am, I decided it was time to share with you Seven Secrets to Studying Successfully for Finals. (You may thank me later.)


Sleep. Your brain will thank you. DearKidLoveMom.comSeriously. Sleep is important. Brains sort of insist on it. The conversation goes something like this:

You: I must stay up and study.

Brain: I was with you for the last several hours, but now I want to sleep.

You: I must stay up and study.

Brain: I’m telling you, this is a bad idea.

You: I must stay up and study.

Brain: I’m not really absorbing this. Can you please read that last paragraph a 6th time?

You: I stayed up all night to study!!

Brain: No prob. I plan to nap during the exam. And I might drool. Talk to you tomorrow.

Eat and Drink

No this does not refer to nachos and alcohol. It doesn’t even refer to coffee and donuts. Brains need real food. They sort of insist on it. (See above for an indication of who wins these conversations.) Eat decent meals and drink water. Lots of it. Lots and lots of water.

Study in Chunks

Human beings are great learning machines. College students are the epitome of great learning machines. But we learn best when we learn in doses. Why do you think law school takes three years rather than one semester? Yes, partly so the school can collect all that lovely tuition, but partly because you can’t learn everything all at once. Study for a while, take a (short) break to give your brain time to process everything, then study for another chunk.

Mix it Up

Different parts of your brain work at different rates and for different things. It’s easier to learn if you use one part of your brain for a while, then give it a break and make another part work. (Kind of like legs one day and upper body the next.) Use the Memorizing Stuff part of your brain to memorize stuff for a while (love those flash cards), then use the Conceptual Stuff part of your brain to work on concepts, then use the Blog Reading part of your brain to read DearKidLoveMom. Rinse and repeat.

Chew Gum

So not kidding about this. Peppermint not only wakes you up, it encourages your brain to learn. So pop some gum and get back to studying.


Too much caffeine can make you too jittery to learn (and cause you to spill coffee into your computer) DearKidLoveMom.comAfter you’ve done a significant amount of studying (fifteen minutes does not–in this case–mean “significant”), get up and move around. Go for a quick run, do a couple of jumping jacks, practice Tai Chi, Tae Bo, or Tying Your Shoes. Just do something to get your blood moving before you get back to work.

Coffee in Moderation*

Some people (incorrectly) believe that by mainlining caffeine they will master all the material and do brilliantly on their exams. Um, no. Number 1, brains need sleep (as I may have mentioned). Number 2, caffeine dehydrates you and brains need hydration (as I may have mentioned). Number 12 (yeah, I skipped a bunch–good job noticing) it’s really hard to study when you’re so jittery you can’t see straight. It is even harder to take an exam when your hands are shaking and all you want to do is jump up and down yelling “Caffeine, Baby!!!”

Happy studying,

Love, Mom

*or in a cup

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