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5 Tips for Managing Finals and End of Year Activities

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As second semester heats up, many students become focused on standardized tests, upcoming AP exams, and end-of-the-year social events like the prom or graduation. There can be so much to juggle that it’s easy to lose track of some of your responsibilities as the end of the year sneaks up.


Don’t fall prey to end of the year responsibilities. Instead, commit now to preparing ahead of time and finishing the year strong. In this post, we’ll outline five strategies for managing end of year activities with grace and finishing the year strong.



1. Plan Ahead

This might seem like a no-brainer, but when we say plan ahead, we mean way ahead. Start a calendar now. You can already fill in so many important dates, including AP exams, SATs or ACTs, and other important commitments.


Though you might have a planner on your phone or tablet that you use frequently, using a paper calendar can be an especially concrete way of tracking these important dates. Hang your calendar someplace where it’s visible and consider disassembling it so that you can have all the months between now and June displayed together.


Begin to block out the time you’ll need leading up to important dates. Instead of just writing your Physics AP exam date on the calendar, also add a few days dedicated to final prep work leading up to it. That way, if any significant social plans arise, you’ll be able to reference your calendar to gauge their feasibility before you commit.



2. Stay Focused on Academics

Remember, at this stage academics should be among your highest priorities. The end of the year is a time when social engagements might become more and more tempting, and you have certainly earned some fun, but keep academics in the forefront as your approach the end of the year.


One way to ensure that your academics get the attention they deserve is to set aside dedicated study hours each day. If you can devote the same time to studying and homework every day, the habit is more likely to carry you through, even when other commitments heat up also. If you have peers who are positive influences on you academically, get them onboard too. Maybe you can help to hold one another accountable or, even better, study together. Just be careful that the study buddies you choose are ones who will actually help you focus, rather than distracting you from what needs to be done.

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3. Communicate With Your Teachers

One major way to get ahead of the game is to talk to your teachers in advance about end-of-year commitments. Teachers always appreciate a student who takes initiative and wants to prepare in advance. Use these valuable resources to your advantage.


Many times, teachers have a good idea of how the end of the year will shape up well before they give you your final assignments, and in many cases, they’ll be happy to share this with you in advance. Explain to your teachers that you’re hoping to better prepare for your end of the year commitments and that you’re hoping to get some idea of what other assignments you should expect. Many teachers will be more than willing to give you a brief summary of how the class usually culminates, and some will even be willing to give you your assignments in advance.


Remember, though, that anything your teachers share with you in advance of announcing it in class could still be subject to change. While talking to your teachers is a good way to get a general idea of what you can expect, don’t make any firm plans or jump into your assignments based solely on this information until it’s formally announced in class or your teacher gives you a firm verbal commitment.



4. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No to Events

For some students, turning down social invitations is the hardest part of juggling end-of-the-year commitments. While large events like the prom or the end-of-season sports banquet might be non-negotiable for you, smaller events like the grad party for Jimmy-from-freshman-year-algebra may be less important.


Return to your calendar when gauging your availability for social events and remember that it’s okay to say no, or even to be non-committal for casual gatherings. Get non-negotiable events on the calendar well in advance so that you can plan your academic commitments around them. Then, plan to be more flexible with less important events. It’s okay to tell your friends that you’re unsure if you’ll be able to make it to Friday’s movie night. Then, set a study goal in advance, see if you can meet it before Friday, and if not, take that time to get caught up. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings if you are upfront about your priorities in advance.



5. Have Fun and Finish Strong

Balancing fun with your necessary work is the key to finishing the year on a strong note. While there are academics and other commitments that you simply can’t avoid, if you prioritize them in advance and make a plan for completing them, you’ll be in good shape to also enjoy the waning days of the school year.


Sometimes, the students who try to buckle down and cram for everything academic in the last few weeks are the ones who crack under pressure. These commitments can really add up, and if you want to maintain some semblance of sanity, you need to prioritize your mental health, too. Set time aside to have fun. Don’t deprive yourself of the things that make you happy. Instead, loosen up when you can and make sure that you take good care of yourself and the relationships that fulfill you.


Balancing fun social events with academic and other commitments at the end of the year is the key to finishing a successful school year on a high note. Preparing in advance, anticipating deadlines, staying organized, and prioritizing your mental health will all help you to stay at the top of your game.


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To learn more about keeping your cool as the school year heats up, check out these CollegeVine posts:


Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School    

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CollegeVine Zen: Supporting Students’ Mental Health Throughout The Often-Stressful Admissions Process

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.