The countdown begins

clock face♪♫♪ I must befriend a storm, panic when there’s too little, panic when there’s too much to be done…

Can you believe there is only one month left in the semester? And yet still so much to do. I’m sure other students are feeling the same kind of anxiety creeping up…all of the deadlines always roll in at once. I’m grateful that the exams for my classes this semester have mostly been staggered — it certainly helped eased the stress of exam weeks to focus on just one specific subject. But I’m apprehensive about finals week, especially for my cumulative genetics and biochemistry exams…there’s just so much to know!

The next three months will be crucial for me because I’ll be wrapping up this semester (hopefully with steady grades), preparing for the MCAT, starting the AMCAS application for medical school, taking the MCAT…and perhaps going back to Japan and Taiwan for the summer! The last one is still up in the air…of course I’m ever hopeful for the rare chance to see my family abroad, but there are a lot of factors hanging in the balance, mostly depending on my application schedule. (Not to mention the plane tickets in the July are unbelievably expensive…)

The density of my to-do list is almost overwhelming to think about sometimes, but I’m hanging on by imagining my senior year next year and how it’ll feel to be finishing my credits at last. I’m all registered and good to go when it comes to courses, and I’m a little apprehensive about the choice of taking on quite a challenging load. I tried my hardest to cram in anatomy and physiology because I want to take it before medical school, and I managed to get an override to take KN 251 in the fall! I’m excited because I’ve never taken a formal anatomy course before…but also a little nervous because all I’ve heard about is the rigor of the course. But there’s also a lot of big changes that may be coming…namely, I may be getting my very first apartment!

I’m unbelievably excited at the prospect of getting a place for the first time with a roommate. Early this semester, I spent a good amount of time deliberating whether I should return as a Peer Mentor for Campus Housing again next year, but I think I knew the answer all along that I would choose to let go of the job. It’s been a rewarding experience, but I’m ready to try other new things now. Fingers crossed, I’ve been searching avidly in the area for an affordable place with one of my friends, but it’s been difficult because I want to move in August whereas most leases begin in May.

But the silver lining is that I have found a tentative place! Conditional on the fact that I can find someone to sublease from mid-May to August with my roommate until I can move into the place in August. I’ve been looking and asking around via social media and with friends, but so far not much luck…if anyone is looking for a place to live this summer that’s affordable and convenient (located right behind the UIC library), let me know!

With all of these things floating around in my head, final exams are looming monsters that I don’t want to think about. But from experience, I know that I need to start preparations now or else the penultimate week of the semester will be absolutely dreadful. Not sure how to start preparing? Overwhelmed by the amount of material? I know exactly how you feel.

Here’s what I would recommend — start from the source itself. Talk to your professor. Or, if he or she is not that approachable, ask the TA instead. Sometimes the TA is even more helpful than the professor, especially if they have experiencing TA-ing for that particular class and know the familiar questions or topics that may be asked on a cumulative final. Speaking of which, figure out if your final exam is even cumulative! Sadly, if you’re in the sciences…it probably is. Fact of the matter is, chemistry finals are almost always cumulative (I can’t think of a single exception); biology finals may or may not be…make sure you clear that up and check the syllabus!

With that, ascertain exactly what material will be covered and to what detail. I certainly will be double-checking on that for my biochemistry class…there’s so much content that it’s hard to know what would even be fair game. Professors and TAs are usually cooperative in helping you figure out what broad topics will be covered. Even if it’s just chapter numbers from the textbooks, you’ll have a place to begin.

Next, set up a schedule for yourself, and stick to it. I have a poor history of following up with this, and I’m determined of seeing myself through it this time. As a second semester junior, it’s about time, isn’t it? Be orderly and reasonable about your schedule — it’s not going to be any fun or conducive to your memory to plan to learn five chapters over one weekend. If you start now, you have about three weeks’ worth of time to work with. So make use of every day! Divide up chapters/units into components and leave some “buffer” time during the last week to do a broad overview of all your notes to consolidate everything one more time. Prioritize your schedule by your finals exam week schedule. I’m always disappointed because I have finals on that last Friday while most of my friends are done by Wednesday or even earlier! But use every day wisely…if a final is on Friday, that’s just more time to prepare!

So, however busy you are right now, try to tack on one more thing to your to-do list: finals preparation. Even 15 minutes a day makes a big difference when it adds up. One month left, friends. One month to pull it all together, and then…summer! We’re almost there!

Why would you want to stay here? / Isn’t it lonely inside?/ Your head must be your home… ♪♫♪

(Storm Chaser – Anavae)


Sarah Lee (F)


Sarah Lee is a junior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of  life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.



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