Students taking their final exams. Stony Brook University held many de-stressing events to help students relax before finals. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Finals are hard. Cumulative or not, these exams are instant stress-makers for students across fields and majors.

Just look at how many de-stress events the university held last week. The Society of Women Engineers had a “Stress Free” event on Monday. On Tuesday, Omega Phi Beta held a Spa Day. Wednesday was Pet Therapy Day, De-stress Fest and Sigma Iota Sigma’s Smash Away Your Stress event. Students were invited to Relax in the SAC on Friday.

I have written previously about finals stress with some advice on how to handle it. But no matter how many stress-control techniques you have or how many de-stress events you go to, sometimes it is out of your control.

This semester’s finals schedule, like the finals schedules before it, stacks the beginning of finals week with the common STEM exams. Many students take BIO 203, BIO 204, and CHE 321 in the same semester. Come finals, these students have an 8 a.m. final three days in a row with the least amount of reading days beforehand. I was one of these students both semesters last year. It is horrible. 

I have heard stories of students seriously considering purging to get out of at one of these finals in the cycle. To expect students to switch mindsets from human physiology to the only test of biology lab to the electron movements of organic chemistry with only 24 hours between each is unreasonable.

Organizing the test schedule sounds stressful itself. To set up all those finals for all those classes so students can attend them must be a nightmare. But it must be possible to organize the schedule so that not all the most common exams are bunched together at the beginning.

Maybe it’s because I live on campus and otherwise live in Nassau County, but I would be perfectly content with having a BIO 203 exam the first week of finals and a CHE 321 final sometime the second week. I can live with the fact that this shortens my break and means having to worry about school for longer. But having more time means I can dedicate more time to studying and less time to cramming. It means that I can take the time to manage my stress as I study for the hardest final on my schedule.

This is even worse for commuter students, who need to make the time to travel, most likely having to cut studying time, impairing the ability to perform the morning of the exam.

This leads into a further question about finals schedules: does it make sense to have finals that start as early as 8 a.m. and end as late as 11 p.m.? This semester I have a day where I have finals in the earliest and latest blocks of the day. Besides the stress of having only nine hours and 45 minutes to go from the mindset of one final to the other, I must be awake and function at my best at 8 a.m. and keep it going through 11 p.m. I don’t think I will be able to nap.

Extend finals for a full second week. Spread out the common finals. Of course it would be nice to get more reading days, but the purpose of finals week is to have full days to study and take tests anyway. More reading days wouldn’t help; better scheduling would.