Student staring at a wall full of sticky notes and other pages of work.

After a long semester of ups and downs, it can be challenging to stay motivated through finals week. Here are a few tips to help you stay motivated through the end of the semester.


Long days of studying and preparing for finals can leave us feeling drained. One way to overcome this kind of motivational slump is to create a list of things that make you feel energized. Think about what you look forward to most during the day or activities that can help you recharge. If you don’t have anything that you’re looking forward to, be sure to intentionally add something to your schedule each day. It could be anything from connecting with friends or listening to uplifting music to going outside or taking a nap. Making time for the things that give you energy can boost your mood and motivation heading into finals. 

Evaluate your expectations

It’s important to check in with ourselves periodically to evaluate our expectations. In most cases, if you’re pressuring yourself to be perfect, it may hinder your ability to actually perform well. This is because stress often feeds off of unrealistic expectations and pressure. Talking to a friend can offer some perspective and help you let go of things that may not be worth your mental energy.

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is also here to provide insight and perspective for students who may be struggling. They provide free drop-in consultations in person and online through Let’s Talk.

Take breaks

Pulling all-nighters and studying for hours on end can do more harm than good. As you plan out your study sessions, be sure to include breaks. Taking a step back can help us relieve stress and better retain information. If you’re not sure where to begin, follow the Pomodoro method:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes to focus on one task.
  • When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break to walk around, grab a snack or chat with a friend.
  • Repeat this cycle three more times (25 minutes working, 5 minute breaks).
  • After you’ve completed all four rounds, take a 30-minute break to refresh.

This method of studying is a great way to help you focus on one task at a time. It also has built-in breaks, so you can stay hydrated, eat snacks, connect with friends and give your brain a break.

Listen to your body

As we prepare for finals, it’s important to listen to our bodies and make sure all of our basic needs are being met. You can do this by using the HALT method:

  • H: Are you hungry?
  • A: Are you angry?
  • L: Are you lonely?
  • T: Are you tired?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, try to address those needs first. When our basic needs go unmet, it can make studying more difficult. For instance, if you’re feeling “hangry” or tired, it may cause you to lose motivation, focus or lash out at friends or classmates. It’s a good practice to check in with yourself regularly throughout the day, especially in times of high stress when it may be easier to forget the basics. 

Avoid comparing stress

Stress feeds off of stress, especially around finals. During this time, it can become commonplace for people to talk about how little sleep they’re getting or how many cups of coffee they need to get through the day, among other sacrifices. This type of comparison is often referred to as “stress bragging” and can negatively impact our mental health. In many cases, it sets the expectation that in order to be successful, we must sacrifice our own self-care. Instead of comparing how much additional stress you’ve taken on in the name of finals, work to prioritize self-care as a part of your study plan and encourage others to do the same. 

Ask for help

Asking for help can be difficult, even when we need it. However, it’s important to remember that your friends, family, peers and professors all want you to succeed. There are a variety of resources on campus for academic help before finals. If you’re not sure about expectations or need clarification on an assignment, contact your professor or TA. They will be able to provide you with more information to help you get started. 

If you’re struggling to stay motivated or cope with stress and anxiety around finals, consider reaching out to a friend or family member. Let them know what you’re going through and how they can help you get through this. Staying connected with loved ones is an important factor in managing stress and feeling supported.

Remember this is temporary

It’s important to remember that your grades are not a reflection of your value or self-worth. How you do on your exams also won’t determine the rest of your life. Things might feel difficult right now, but you will get through it. The stress you feel may be overwhelming, but it is temporary and it will pass.

Health and Wellness resources

Health and Wellness Services has a number of resources available to help you finish the semester strong.

  • Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)
    Counseling and Psychiatric Services offers drop-in services through Let’s Talk. You can meet with a provider briefly to discuss worries, anxiety, depression, academic concerns, relationships and more. They also provide weekly workshops that cover a variety of topics, including stress management, healthy habits and meditation.
  • Disability Services
    Disability Services is offering a free Preparing for Finals workshop on Wednesday, Apr. 20. This workshop will cover test-taking strategies and tips for creating an effective study schedule.
  • Health Promotion
    Health Promotion is offering weekly programs to help you navigate change, plan for the future, practice self-care and finish the semester well.

More Finals Resources