Senior Graham Holmes knows exactly how he needs to approach finals season: by kicking it into high gear and getting it done as soon as possible.
“I’m someone who just knows throughout the entire term that this period of two weeks will be mostly work,” Holmes said. “So I handle it by trying to stay as on top of things as I can, making up for the rest of the term when I was a mediocre student.”
Many students share Holmes’ mentality and while not everyone is as well prepared, all can probably agree that the finals workload is stressful. To combat that stress, programs and events are offered to the student body such as Union Board’s Pause for Paws and faculty-run Midnight Breakfast.
“It’s not sustainable to be so focused on work all the time, so you have to take time to enjoy yourself too. I always try to go to all the campus art events that are happening at the end of the term and make sure that I’m getting out of the library too,” Holmes said.
Getting out of the stress of studying to do something relaxing or distracting can be useful for students who feel bogged down by work. Coordinator for Student Development Andrew Salemi believes that having a self-care mindset during finals is important for managing stress, which is why many RAs and student groups decide to host self-care events.
“Part of the RA programming model is that each RA is responsible for a variety of programs throughout the year,” said Salemi. “And they get to pick when those happen and the topics, they’re given a decent amount of flexibility on that. A decent amount of them have chosen to do finals de-stress kind of things. For example, Post É RAs are hosting a DIY ice cream sandwich social, I think another group of RAs is doing tea.”
Faculty and student concerns about grades or personal concerns are often shared with the Campus Life office. During finals season, Salemi is often meeting with students to check in and make sure the term is ending well.
“So this week and last I’ve been meeting with students and [Assistant Director of Campus Life for Residential & Greek Education] Eleanor [Kahn] has been doing the same, checking in about grades. So our main priority is making sure students feel okay going into finals. The programming is mostly done by the student groups.”
While the weeks surrounding finals are stressful for any student, Knox trimesters allow little time between midterms and finals. Salemi believes that to help combat the stress of midterms and finals combined, there could be more programming in the later weeks of the term.
“I think it would be nice to see some programming happening in weeks five and six. Throughout the term, I think as a college we all rely on student events to be hosting events consistently, but they’re students too. So weeks five, six, seven are really busy for them. It would be nice to see if any department, whether it’s student development or an academic division, could do something in those midterm weeks,” Salemi said.
Common Ground was one student group that made the time to relax during finals stress. They threw a coloring and DIY sun-catcher event in the HRC on Nov. 9.
“Our [event] kind of has a two-sided purpose. One to take care of yourself and take a moment to be around people who support you and care about you during finals,” said Common Ground president and junior Ashley Kerley. “Also, because with our community, sometimes leaving the Knox bubble and going home to your family can be hard because you’re not necessarily coming home to someone who supports you or uses your pronouns or that sort of thing. So we do these at the end of every term to be like, ‘Hey come be a part of this community.’”
Kerley explained that for her personally, the only thing she wished could be improved during finals season is more availability in counseling.
“I don’t want to throw counseling services under the bus because they already do everything that they can, but there just aren’t enough counselors. You have to wait a long time to see counselors, and I know next week is the busiest week for everyone so you can only see [counselors] for a half hour,” said Kerley.
The improvement Holmes wishes to see during finals is more space to do late-night studying.
“I think that it’s good to have … events that are there to support students, but I think the single best thing the college can do for students during finals is make the library 24 hours. Pause for Paws is great but more importantly, I need a place to do work,” Holmes said.
Salemi agrees that space to study is important, but thinks that the college gives plenty of resources to students like Red Room, Writers Workshop and reading days. He believes that the college shouldn’t be promoting 24-hour study habits, but should be stressing the importance of sleep and healthy studying.
“I think Knox does a good job of the self-care culture, both students helping each other and staff promoting self-care. So I don’t like the idea of a 24-hour study space. I totally understand why a lot of students want that. I was the kind of student who would stay up all night studying so I get it, but now in my professional role I don’t like the idea of promoting that culture,” Salemi said.
Salemi believes that he has seen campus self-care culture change over the past few years, as attendance for Pause for Paws has gone up and the effectiveness of Midnight Breakfast has seemingly increased.
“I feel like the Midnight Breakfast culture has really improved over the last few years which is nice … [My] first two or three [breakfasts] were loud, boisterous, potentially some people had drank before comingÉ it was almost stress-inducing to be in that space. I think it is getting more tameÉ I see people come in with backpacks because they’ve been doing work, which is a good example of how people are now appropriately using the resources being provided,” Salemi said.
In coming terms, Salemi would like to see more spaces on campus being actively staffed in some way to help provide support for students struggling with stress.
“I think more can always be done … The resources are there for students to be successful academically. We have labs, we have the library, we have what people need to succeed, but I think encouraging people to have a healthy atmosphere is where we could step up a little as a campus,” said Salemi.
Upcoming self-care events on campus:
Nov. 15 11 p.m.
“Crazy Rich Asians” screening: Nov. 15 8:30 p.m. Trustees Room
Pause for Paws:
Nov. 15 6-8 p.m. Taylor Lounge
Dogs and Donuts:
Nov. 16 8-10 p.m. Wilson House