The Colonial Health Center associate dean gives advice to students preparing for final exams and highlights GW resources.
By Kristen Mitchell
Final exams are the last hurdle standing between George Washington University students and summer vacation, but they can bring on added stress at the end of a semester of hard work.
GW Today spoke with Glenn Egelman, associate dean of the Colonial Health Center, about the best ways to prepare for upcoming exams while keeping wellness and balance in mind and about resources available to students in the coming weeks.
Q: What are some of the best ways students can handle stress as final exams approach?
A: Everyone manages stress differently, but in general, no one likes an unpleasant surprise. I recommend surveying all you need to study—understand the breadth of what you need to review—and create a study plan. Then follow the plan. There is no way one can learn it all—so try to master those concepts that your professors have noted to be of highest priority. This can help minimize stress.
But most importantly, recognize and acknowledge that it is natural to feel stress and that some stress is good— we call it "eustress" and it helps us perform better.
Too much stress (distress) interferes with our performance. So take a few moments and pay attention to how you are feeling. There are numerous tools and resources on the Colonial Health Center website to help you manage any distress, and our entire team of health promotion and physical and mental health professionals are here solely to support you and your academic success.
Q: If a student is realizing at 10 p.m. they aren't prepared for their 8 a.m. final the next morning, what will help them more: sleep or studying?
A: Identify a handful of key points, three to five, and study them. Take a breather, unwind and go to sleep. The brain can only place a limited amount of information into the short-term memory bank at a time. Like any body part, it needs time to refresh between workouts. You would not expect to run your fastest time in a marathon if you were awake all night jogging. Likewise, your brain needs rest so that you can achieve your personal best during a final exam.
Q: How important is nutrition when you're under a lot of stress?
A: Nutrition is vitally important. You would not successfully run a marathon without proper nutrition. Likewise, your brain cannot perform its vital functions without balanced, brain-healthy nutrition.
Some foods that are widely considered to improve memory and brain functioning include blueberries, wild salmon and other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (herring, sardines), nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds), avocados, whole grains and beans, and dark chocolate (in moderation).
The CARE Network, a cross-department support system, is available to connect GW students with university resources and personalized care for any issues they may be facing. Any member of the university community who is concerned about the wellbeing of a student should submit a report through the CARE Network.
The Colonial Health Center also offers daily walk-in counseling on weekdays on the ground floor of the Marvin Center and support by phone at 202-994-5300, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for students experiencing anxiety and distress.
Students can turn to the Writing Center for additional help with papers, and the Language Center can assist students preparing for foreign language exams. There are additional resources available at Gelman and Eckles libraries, like last-minute “no judgment” assistance on papers and designated Study Zones across campus.
Eckles Library will be open 24 hours a day between May 7 and 12 and will be offering free coffee and late night popcorn.
Students are encouraged to attend the 37th annual Chalk-In from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 2 in Kogan Plaza to celebrate art and relax ahead of exams. There will be free popsicles and a lemonade and iced tea bar.
Additional stress reduction activities include “Buff and Blue Happy Hour” in Eckles Library from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on May 7 and in Gelman Library from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on May 8. The Colonial Health Center will host “Breakfast Break” again in Gelman Library from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 8 and May 9.
Students can also take a break from studying from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 6 at George Washington President Steven Knapp’s farewell celebration at the Charles E. Smith Center. There will be free food and a performance by special musical guest Dr. Knapp.
The Center for Career Services is also available for students seeking guidance on the search for internships and employment during the summer and full-time employment following graduation.