Your Finals Survival Guide

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Finals season is here. It’s time for us to push through the last few weeks of the semester and finish off in a positive way. 

With final projects, essays and tests to worry about, this time of year can be extremely hectic and stressful for students. It can be daunting to find motivation during finals week when all you want to do is cuddle under a thick blanket and drink hot chocolate, but don’t let yourself off the hook just yet! 

To help you survive finals week, we’ve gathered tips and preparation advice from Austin Community College students and academic coaches. 

ACC student, Victoria Regalado, keeps the studying habit of slowly exposing herself to the content of her class over time. 

Regalado likes to run through the materials posted on Blackboard before class to become familiar with what her professor is going to talk about. This practice keeps her engaged with the materials that may appear on future tests and lessens the burden of cramming in all the concepts at the last minute. 

Like most students, Regalado has had some difficulties preparing for her finals in the past. Last semester was Regalado’s first semester at ACC and she admits she did not know how to prepare for exams or what to expect during finals. 

“I was in a class where we weren’t given that many details about what would be on the final, so I had no idea what to focus on,” Regalado said. “I was freaking out.”

To push through that difficult time, Regalado reached out to her classmates to exchange the information they had about the finals. She also looked over past exams to try to identify the professor’s testing style. 

“It’s kind of comforting to know that many people are on the same boat with you,” Regalado said. “We helped each other and the final results turned out well.”

Being an engineering major at ACC demands Alya Mansoor to be a strict planner. Mansoor says she works on school work from the afternoon until evening time. 

An image of a young woman wearing glasses and headphones studying for an exam using her textbook and her laptop computer.
Alya Mansoor, engineering student at ACC, studies for an upcoming exam.

“A big thing that I do to keep the balance between my work life and study life is to create a structured schedule,” Mansoor said. “At the beginning of the school year, I’ll get a big calendar and write down all of my deadlines for homework and exams. As time goes on, I’ll fill in things that pop up too” 

This calendar helps her keep track of due dates and allows her to plan out her work ahead of time. 

To study for finals, Mansoor formulates a study plan catered to each class based on previous exams and the professor’s formatting. If she has an upcoming textbook-heavy exam, she will focus on her textbooks and support her studying by reviewing notes and homework. 

“If I have an exam that relies on homework and practice, like Calculus, I’ll work through problem after problem and review my notes again.” 

For a cumulative exam, Mansoor takes a different approach. “That’s a longer process and I have to start ahead of time and pay close attention to the course materials from the beginning of the class,” Mansoor said. 

Because Mansoor says she fidgets frequently and is not good at concentrating for long periods of time, she uses the Pomodoro technique to study productively. 

Using this method, you break down your working time into 25-minute chunks (pomodoros) separated by five-minute breaks. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. This technique can help anyone who feels distracted or overwhelmed to focus their attention on the task at hand. 

“I’m using the Pomodoro method and I’ll keep using that,” Mansoor said. “It helps me keep my concentration better, especially for something big like finals.”

Sherry Yang, an academic coach at ACC, notices that a common mistake students make when studying for finals is procrastination. 

An image of a beautiful smiling woman with long hair looking towards the camera.
One of ACC’s many academic coaches, Sherry Yang.

“Some students didn’t plan ahead and didn’t know how much time they needed to prepare for finals,” Yang said. “In worse cases, some students barely studied until the final days.” 

This habit of barely studying leads students to cram all the information at the last minute and results in poor retention of the material and lower test scores. 

“If you try to stay up late to memorize as much as you can, usually you’re going to feel tired the next day and not going to remember a lot of information,” Yang said.

When students come to Yang for advice, she recommends at least two weeks to prepare for a big test. 

“Let’s say if they have a test on Friday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., we recommend students to study in the afternoon from 2 or 3 o’clock for the two weeks before the final,” Yang said. “That way, you can get used to doing those kinds of subjects in that time frame. On the actual test day, you’re not going to get super anxious and stressed out.”

This semester, ACC has been hosting a mix of in-person and virtual classes. For either type of class, Yang recommends familiarizing yourself with the environment you are going to be in during your exam. 

“If you’re going to take your test in front of your desk, you’ll want to study in front of your desk a while before the exam day,” Yang said. “If you’re going to take a test in a class, it might be better to study in a library or a public place. If you get too comfortable studying at home, taking a test in a different environment with people around may make you feel anxious and overwhelmed.”

Preparing for your final exams can be overwhelming, especially during the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. If you have had difficulty studying for finals, book an appointment with ACC academic coaches at their website. Academic coaches are available on several campuses district-wide.

Good luck to everyone with your finals!

Is Self-Care Self-Indulgent?

When Self-Care Is Taken Too Far

Story and Video By: Jace Puckett

What comes to mind when you think of self-care? Facial masks, binging on snacks, taking a mental health spa day? While all of these things can be good in moderation, they may not be the most productive ways to actually take care of yourself.

Dr. Manuel X. Zamarripa, the associate dean of counseling in the north region of Austin Community College, commented that many students come to counseling reporting feelings of anxiety about classwork and lack of sleep. 

“Even though they’re specific issues,” he said, “They’re very much connected to stress and stress levels.” 

When asking students about the methods of self-care they use, students talked about activities such as getting adequate sleep or more sleep, using social media and listening to music. Dr. Zamarripa offered his advice on which methods of self-care were more effective and productive.

“Self-care is something you should do every day, not just when you’re stressed,” he said. “It’s true, getting enough sleep is kind of key.”

He went on to mention how exercise and healthy eating habits are two other factors students should keep in mind when seeking ways to better care for themselves. Archaeology major, Ashely Bragg, mentioned that taking walks better alleviates her feelings of stress. Engineering major, Braden Karley, said that he tries to eat healthy in addition to making sure that he is getting enough sleep at night. Other students gave their own insights on which methods were most helpful to them as well.

“I go to my therapist every three weeks,” said psychology major Hunter Hernandez. “And that helps.”

 Although Bragg and Karley have found productive methods of self-care that can be done daily, they shared some methods they thought to have fit the “self-care” category at first but found out that they better fit the “treat yourself” category even more. Bragg admitted to drinking the occasional glass of wine while taking baths, and Karley mentioned consuming sweets every now and then.

“Sometimes [I] treat myself,” Karley said. “I’ll get some ice cream or soda on the way home or Starbucks.”

As far as which methods of self-care were less effective, students also had a variety of opinions. Karley talked about “distractions” such as playing video games and watching Netflix.

“They can be good in moderation,” he said, “But if you overindulge, then that can be counterproductive.”

Hernandez talked about snacking and browsing social media on her phone, and Bragg stated that drinking a glass of wine during bath time did help, but it also prolonged her worried thoughts.

Social media was also a topic of discussion, who mentioned going on Twitter to tweet about her daily emotions. Dr. Zamarripa stated that social media wasn’t inherently evil, but it could be misused.

“It doesn’t do anything directly at the moment to harm the person,” he said, “But what it does is if you’re just out there and you’re consistently scrolling and moving. It doesn’t allow those feelings to leave you. You’re just kind of ignoring them.”

Electrical engineering major José Campuzano and Bragg both expressed their beliefs that going to parties and clubs was counterproductive. Just like social media, it can make you feel better at that moment, but it is more of a method of treating oneself and will ultimately ignore the real issue. Campuzano and Bragg have similar ideas about what self-care truly entails.

“Put yourself first before you put others,” said Campuzano. “It’s actually good to put others before yourself, but sometimes you have to worry about your personal self-care first before going to others.”

While Campuzano emphasizes taking care of yourself so that you are in a healthy state to care for others, Bragg stresses the importance of caring for yourself first and foremost.

“[Self-care is] something that’s just about you that gives you a chance to just worry about yourself,” she said. “Just think about yourself, and also remember that self-care is not selfish.”



Written by Amye Bueno
Photos by Wes Eng

Students gathered at NxNRG
Students gathered at NxNRG

As part of Stress Less Finals Week, and a chance to show off students’ talent, Student Life specialist Josh Garcia, hosted the first annual North by Northridge(NxNRG) showcase. “NxNRG is a showcase of student artwork of all different mediums” says Garcia.

Artwork included paintings, photography, digital art, and more. “We were going to have some music but the weather was kind of unpredictable today,” says Garcia. The weather was predicted to be a high of 86 with clouds in the sky and possible rain.

Northridge is known for hosting many creative and design departments including creative digital, music business, animation and more. Students submitted artwork and set up tables along the breezeway with their artwork on display. There were also interactive tables where students could paint flower pots, a friendship bracelet making station hosted by Riverbat Ambassador Dorothy Alexander. Plus, Student Life hosted a swag station with finals necessities like scantrons and pencils. Chick-fil-a was also nearby to show their support for students with sandwiches and prizes.

Students making friendship bracelets
Students making friendship bracelets

Wrapping up NxNRG, students had one last chance to de-stress by giving the piñata their best shot. This created an opportunity to network and interact with other students, faculty, and staff. As this was the first NxNRG, Student Life hopes to host this event for students every semester.

“Student Life is an opportunity for students to connect with their campus, with pretty much everything relating to outside of the classroom” says Garcia. Aiming to help students succeed in and out of the classroom, and connecting them with resources, Student Life is here to help students at ACC. “Student Life has done a lot, a lot for me, it’s another place I can call home” says gaming student and aspiring Riverbat Ambassador, Ty Howard.

If you would like to get involved or volunteer, stop by your Student Life office located on your campus or visit for opportunities and resources available to you.