Photo of students studying for finals at tables in the engineering building.

After a semester of hard work, finals are here. Check out these tips to help you with last-minute preparations so you can finish out the semester strong. 

1. Evaluate your expectations

We all want to do well on our finals. However, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re also doing the best you can with the resources, time and energy you have. For instance, it may not be realistic to expect to remember everything you study, get an A on every exam or nail every group project. Take some time to reflect on your expectations by asking yourself: 

  • Are my expectations realistic? 
  • Where are these expectations coming from? 
  • Are my expectations negatively impacting other areas of my life (e.g., mental health, friends, self-care, etc.)? 
  • Is this something I will feel strongly about in seven days, seven months or seven years? 
  • How can I adjust my expectations to feel like I’ve done ‘enough?’ 

Talking with a friend or Peer Wellness Coach may give you perspective and help you let go of things that aren’t worth your time, energy or grief. If you’d prefer to talk with a professional counselor, stop by a free, drop-in Let’s Talk session around campus. 

2. Set boundaries with yourself and others

Finals can create or magnify stress in our lives, impacting our relationships with ourselves, our friends, our partners and other loved ones. Whether studying for an exam or working on a group project, it’s important to set healthy boundaries. 

Here are some boundaries you can set with others:

  • Consider hanging a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door when you’re studying or need quiet time. 
  • Ask your roommates/housemates not to throw parties or invite people over until everyone in your room/house has completed their final exams for the week. 
  • Review your existing roommate agreement or create a new one to make adjustments to quiet hours, parties, wake/sleep times, borrowing items and more. 
  • Work with your friends to find ways to hang out without disrupting each other’s study schedules. For instance, it may be better to grab a coffee or walk to a study spot together. 
  • For group projects, be sure to set boundaries around group work and individual participation. Ensure everyone understands what they are responsible for and are committed to upholding their end of the project. 

Here are some boundaries you can set with yourself:

  • Create a flexible study schedule that ensures you have time to sleep, take breaks, stay hydrated, eat regular meals and spend time with others.  
  • It’s OK to say no to friends if you need to study, but it’s also OK to say no to studying for an hour if spending time with friends would help you take a break, feel less stressed or renew your energy and motivation. 
  • It can also be helpful to set boundaries around how you spend your time. For instance, you may want to limit the amount of time you spend on a single project, or you may want to set limits around how late you’re willing to stay up to finish a project. Remember, pulling all-nighters can actually be detrimental to your performance on exams and projects. 
  • You can also safeguard your mental health by setting boundaries around things like comparing yourself to others, criticizing yourself for your study habits or other things that may impact you during finals week.

If you need support navigating conflict or maintaining your boundaries, Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution has free support resources and workshops available for students. 

3. Take care of yourself

When times get stressful, self-care often moves down on our priority list. However, it’s important to continue caring for yourself, even if you feel like there isn’t enough time in the day. Plan ahead and consider ways to modify your current self-care routine to fit into a demanding schedule. Here are some ideas that can help you get started: 

  • Prioritize eating regular meals and staying hydrated. Pack snacks when you leave your house or residence hall to study and keep a reusable water bottle on hand for refills around campus. Check out easy snack ideas for finals. 
  • If you have trouble concentrating, consider using a fidget toy or stress ball to keep your hands and mind focused. You can also use strategies like the Pomodoro technique to help you avoid overloading your brain with information. 
  • Check in with friends and ask them to do the same for you. Staying in touch with people, even when we feel like we don’t have time for them, can help us stay motivated and feel supported. 
  • Take time to go outside, even for a short time. Exposure to daylight helps with energy, mood and sleep regulation. 
  • Stay active by stretching, taking walks outside to clear your head or visiting the Rec Centers on campus. You can enjoy free activities like skating, climbing and fitness classes during Free Finals Week at The Rec
  • Be mindful of your caffeine use. While a visit to a coffee shop or tea with a friend can be part of your self-care plan, too much caffeine can disrupt your sleep and create a dependency. If you use caffeine to combat fatigue during finals, consider these other ways to feel more awake
  • Maintain your sleep habits to ensure you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Pulling all-nighters may feel like an effective way to cram in information, but it can also affect your memory and concentration when you take exams. Instead, space out your study time and prioritize quality sleep to ensure you retain the information you’ve been studying. Setting a consistent bedtime (and waking time) can help you stay on track and remember the things you studied. 

4. Remember that this is temporary

Finals can hold a lot of weight, especially if you’re approaching graduation or trying to reach other milestones in your academic career. However, it’s important to remember that finals are temporary. The outcome of the coming weeks will not define your life or what you do in the future. There are plenty of ways to reach your goals without sacrificing your well-being. 

5. Reach out for help

Finals can take a toll on our mental and physical health. If you’re looking for additional support to help you finish out the semester, check out or one of these resources: 

Academic resources

Tutoring services

CU Boulder offers a wide variety of tutoring services. Some are specific to classes, departments or groups of students, while others are available campus wide. Many of these services are free to use. If you aren’t sure where to begin, check your syllabus and ask your professor or course assistant for help and referrals. 

Writing Center

The Writing Center provides free one-to-one tutoring sessions with professionally trained writing consultants, individualized guidance and feedback, and time-saving skills for writing and presentation projects. The Writing Center is free to all CU Boulder undergrad and graduate students. 

Grade Replacement Program

This program allows degree-seeking undergrad and graduate students to retake a course in which they earned a low grade in an attempt to improve their cumulative GPA. 

Disability Services

Disability Services provides students with disabilities reasonable academic accommodations, support and other services. They also offer free workshops that are open to all students. If you need help navigating test accommodations, reach out to their office. 

Additional support

Let’s Talk

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides free drop-in consultations through Let’s Talk. Counselors are available in person at multiple campus locations to help provide insight, solutions and information about additional resources. 

Peer Wellness Coaching

Peer Wellness Coaching is a free service that can help you set and achieve your goals. Peer wellness coaches are familiar with a variety of topics, including stress, time management, study habits, academics, self-care, sleep and more. 

Free Finals Week at The Rec

Rec Center members can take a quick study break to enjoy free activities like skating, climbing and group fitness classes at the Main Student Recreation Center. 

Mental health crises

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or needs urgent, same-day support, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is here to support you 24/7. Call 303-492-2277. Calling ahead allows providers to triage your concerns to address them more quickly and effectively.