The other morning while walking by the UBC Life building, I noticed a young woman sitting at a table, her books and laptop spread in front of her, fast asleep with her head on the table.
Unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon site at this time of year. With final exams in full swing, students will do whatever they can to get good marks. Some will go to extremes – including pulling all-nighters, relying on energy drinks or other substances – to ensure they get the results they want.I can empathize. I know too well the compulsion to go to extremes to get good grades. I did it myself when I was a student.
But those extreme measures can be damaging to your physical and mental health. And countless studies have shown that cramming for exams rarely works. What does work is getting a good night’s sleep, developing good study skills, keeping on top of assignments and readings during the term and so on.
When working hard to prepare for your exams it is common to feel tired or pressured to drive yourself too hard. Sometimes this can lead us to feeling that we can’t be successful or over-extended. So, it is important to make sure that we take care of ourselves. In addition to using effective study methods, make sure to spend time away from the books – to energize. Don’t be afraid to take time out to look after yourself. Take study breaks, catch your breath and go for a walk. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help.
It’s all a part of looking after yourself.
I’ve learned through experience that life is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t need to race through life or be perfect at every stage. Take breaks along your journey just as a marathoner will pause for a water break.
One step at a time
Don’t try to fulfill someone else’s expectations on what you should become or what constitutes success. If you take one step at a time and focus on becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, you will amaze yourself with what you can accomplish with your life.
God knows, none of us are perfect. You might be worried about how well you’ll do in your exams, but don’t let those thoughts overwhelm you. And don’t listen to those naysayers that say you won’t amount to anything. No one has the right to shape your dreams or declare what your life will be. Your life belongs to you. Surround yourself with uplifting people. And uplift those around you. Reach out to classmates, friends or family for help.
UBC can help too. We have resources to help students not only survive – but thrive – during the exam period.
A great place to start with is the Stress Less for Exam Success page on the Student Services website (https://students.ubc.ca/academic-success/stress-less-exam-success) which has tips on studying, managing stress, eating well and keeping active (remember: a healthy work-life balance is important, even at exam time). There’s even a soothing 45-second meditation video!
Student Services’ Health & Wellness site has a wealth of resources for dealing with stress and anxiety – whether due to exams or other causes. The pages on stress & anxiety (https://students.ubc.ca/health-wellness/self-help/stress-anxiety) and depression (https://students.ubc.ca/health-wellness/self-help/depression) are worth a visit.
The Chapman Learning Commons (http://learningcommons.ubc.ca/) offers several resources that can help, including:
- Extended 24/7 hours in Irving K Barber Learning Centre during the exam period
- Extended drop-in hours at Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication
- Exam Stretch Break video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI61fbZZYB8
- A blog post on undergrad burnout and tips for combatting it: http://learningcommons.ubc.ca/on-burning-out/
- Free stress relief activity sheets at the CLC Desk (they include study tips!)
Resources are available
Other resources are available at both campuses. Here’s what’s on the UBC Okanagan website:
- Math and Science Centre http://students.ok.ubc.ca/academic-supports/msc.html
- Health and Wellness http://students.ok.ubc.ca/health-wellness/welcome.html
- Aboriginal Programs and Services http://students.ok.ubc.ca/aboriginal/welcome.html
- International Programs and Services http://students.ok.ubc.ca/international/welcome.html
- Campus Recreation https://camprec.ok.ubc.ca/welcome.html
You’ve all put in a lot of work to get to this point. Exams are an opportunity for you to show what you know.
So, to all UBC students, I wish you all the best in your exams, and on your life’s marathon.
Professor Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor