That time of the year has, once again, come to pass. Finals week. The week where you will not see many of your friends for over two and a half months and you spend time buried in your textbooks. It is as inevitable as the end of the year is: The library is your new home.
Maybe this is not how it should be. Unfathomable, I know. Brandeis students are so academically inclined that the mere notion of spending some parts of finals week—dare I say—not studying seems ludicrous at best and dangerous at worst. But it is important to spend the week balancing the different aspects of your life and not sleeping in the library.
Now, I am not saying you should not study during finals week. I know I am going to be hunched over a table somewhere in Farber 3 cramming an entire semester of Gen Chem into my skull for the better part of the week. Studying is certainly important to strengthen understanding of course material. But studying incessantly is not only unhealthy, it is also counterintuitive. If you take breaks, your brain is better able to retain and organize the information you have been feeding it for hours. If you do not take breaks, your memory processes will fail to recognize the information as relevant/important (and, therefore, will not think to store it) and you will be wasting time in front of your professor’s PowerPoint.
Short walks have not only shown to help relieve stress, but they also aid with the encoding of memory. Taking breaks every once in awhile is both healthy and necessary for proper studying. Incessant cramming has also been shown to not help with the processing of information so as to encode it. And it comes as no surprise to anyone that decent REM sleep is required to retain and organize the memories of the day. It makes no sense, then, to skimp out on sleeping at the risk of studying. What I am getting at is that the way many people study for finals is actually counter-productive and is wasteful of time.
And fellow pre-med/science students—I know that this opinion piece may not seem like it is for you. There is far too much to learn, and there is no way to balance it. But when you get into medical school (and chances are, you will, so relax), you are going to need to find that balance in even more stressful situations. Otherwise, you will not be able to make it through med school. While it may initially seem counterintuitive, effective studying takes less time than ineffective studying. There is no need to sacrifice your mental health for an A. The former ought to come first.
Students on this campus tend to generally freak out when it comes time for finals. And I understand the concern, obviously—I do go to Brandeis, after all. But not only is this detrimental to mental and physical well-being, it also comes at the price of proper studying. Try to balance your workload during finals week—I promise it is worth a shot.