5 Ways to Finish the Semester Strong

Parents and college students can both work towards a successful finals week.

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The few weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break can make or break a student's semester grades. And for college freshmen, this period may be the first time students experience final exams or projects, when it's already easy to get distracted with the holidays right around the corner.


There isn't much of a role for parents to play in their student's final exams, but you may want to take the time to show you are thinking of him or her.

1. Check in: The period leading up to finals is a good time to check in with your child to see how he or she is doing, and to offer advice or support if needed. This is especially true if you've had a hands-off policy regarding grades up to this point.

2. Send a care package: A finals survival kit will be a welcome surprise for your child who should be studying hard. Ideas for things to include are snacks—your child's favorites and some healthy options—study supplies such as highlighters, sticky notes notes, USB flash drives, and gift cards to Starbucks or other local coffee places.

[See if these care package ideas might work for your student.]


At my high school, students were often exempt from a final if they had earned a 96 percent or above in the class. Good overall attendance could also earn students one waiver per semester. As a result, I had taken very few final exams going into my freshman year of college.

In my experience, your grade in a class has the potential to change significantly in the last few weeks of the semester. Here are some of my ingredients for acing finals (and doing well in the weeks prior):

1. Know where you stand: Last year, one of my friends went into finals week having gotten an A on every test that year. Feeling good about her grade, she didn't study for the final and bombed it, ending up with a B in the class.

Final exams often make up a sizable portion of your grade, sometimes equal to two or three other tests taken throughout the semester. Make sure you understand how your score on a final exam or project will affect your grade, and what you need to earn in order to achieve the grade you want.

2. Communicate with your teacher: This is good advice for nearly every area of academics. Whenever you have an issue with a class, my greatest advice is to communicate with your teacher. Make sure you're open with them about where you stand, as well as any difficulties you're having.

In my experience, they're almost always happy to hear from you—and might even cut you some slack when grading your final assignments of the year.

3. Avoid distractions: In the last few weeks before going home for winter break, there are plenty of things you'd rather be doing than schoolwork. Last year during finals week, at any given time my friends were watching Christmas movies, sledding, or going out to eat, while I tried to focus on those last few essays and tests.

You don't have to completely forego a social life during finals week, but it's important to manage your time well, and recognize when you can spare a few hours and when you can't. Trust me, you'll have plenty of down time during the three or four weeks you have off for winter break.

[Use this holiday survival guide to make a smooth transition.]