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Help your student power through finals

By Diane Schwemm


The weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break are tough on students. No way to sugarcoat it. They are buried in work: reading, exam preparation, final projects, paper writing, etc.

Some first-year students experience another wave of homesickness after the Thanksgiving holiday. Seniors are extra stressed as they work on theses and capstone projects while applying for jobs and graduate school.

You may not hear from your student much, or at all. This is natural and most likely okay. They need space, but they also need encouragement and support.

What are the best ways to help?

When you do talk — or in a quick text or letter — you can reinforce strategies for getting through finals healthy and whole.

Encourage self-care.

This means:

  • Regular sleep
  • Regular study breaks (they can put these in their planner)
  • Exercise, including time spent outdoors in natural light if possible
  • Quality time with friends (again, they can schedule this)
  • Healthy and regular meals, hydration

They should keep their eye out for finals support events on campus at the student union, health center, etc. and reach out for stress relief through the counseling center.

Maximize academic support.

  • Break larger final projects and papers into smaller pieces and start as soon as they are assigned.
  • Attend all available study sessions, faculty office hours, etc.
  • Get individual tutoring in subjects where they are struggling.

What else can parents do?

Understand that they may not have time for the usual phone calls. Send an occasional text/social message that doesn’t require a response. Write a letter!

Check in to confirm their travel plans and offer to help if needed.

And there's still time to mail a finals care package!
  • Healthy snacks (nuts, dried fruit, protein bars)
  • Fidget or stress relief toy
  • Cozy hat, gloves, scarf or slippers
  • New earbuds
  • Gift card for coffee shop or restaurant they like in town
  • Calming teas
  • Vitamin C drops or Emergen-C
  • Holiday treats
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Diane Schwemm is a writer and senior editor at CollegiateParent. She and her husband are parents of a college student and two recent graduates. In her off hours, she likes to read, hike and garden and, thanks to the influence of her family, appreciates ballet and basketball equally.

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