I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.
The dog days of the semester are upon us once again, ladies and gentlemen. Our minds begin to switch gear from thinking about the day-to-day work of college existence and start thinking about the lengthier term projects; our time spent studying drastically increases, as final exams loom on the horizon; and, of course, some strange cocktail of stress, a super moon, and an intense helping of American politics interferes with our sleep schedule.
Fortunately for you, the ‘Cat in the Stacks is here to help you conquer any late-semester anxieties that plague you. Let’s chat about a few common end-of-term stressors and work out how to overcome them in an efficient and effective manner.
The Term Paper
(Full disclosure: the ‘Cat in the Stacks himself has a few of these that he is extremely nervous about.) Term papers present, as far as I can tell, two immediate and totally appropriate responses: the “how am I supposed to choose a topic?” response and the “how am I supposed to write that many pages on this topic?” response. To these I say, our Wildcat predecessors have completed these assignments with far less technology and their ancestors with even less, so we can most certainly complete these staples of the college student experience.
The research and writing phase comes first. The library’s databases are always the first place you should turn for quality research. Once you’ve discovered that not all of your research can be done electronically, you should then consult the library catalog and narrow down to print resources. These two resources will ensure reliable information, whether you’re composing a historical piece, conducting financial analysis, or floundering with some philosophical concept. (Sampling of databases provided for demonstrating breadth of information available.)
These assignments, however, do not always get completed to their highest potential if done in a vacuum. So our next step is definitely to seek assistance; whether it’s through a close friend, or a professor, or the Writing Center, assistance will help produce a superior project.
The Final Exam
Okay, we’ve attended lectures all semester long and have picked up little tidbits of information from each class, but now you want us to synthesize it all into a single final test? And complete the thing within a couple of hours?
Most of us have done this before, and feel confident that we can do it again. For some of us, though, these are our first set of exams. And even for the seasoned veterans, the classes have gotten more challenging and the information more complex.
The library’s subject guides are actually a good place to start for studying. The library subscribes to a number of interactive databases that can help you get a clearer picture of the information that you’re trying to understand. (For example, check out Social Explorer’s awesome historical maps!)
Two more things: find your comfort zone and find a study buddy. The library offers a number of spaces for you to study in. I must recommend the Dugan Polk Family Reading Room, but don’t get caught up in sightseeing, as the room is definitely the most beautiful on campus. But we also still have the Holy Grounds Café and tables on every floor; there’s definitely a space comfortable for you at the Falvey.
Feedback from peers is not instrumental for only term papers; making studying a group effort can also benefit your exam scores. More effectively than a flashcard, a study buddy can review your answers to particular questions and give feedback. Additionally, serving as someone else’s study buddy can help reinforce the information that you already know! So it’s a win-win.
The Lack of Sleep
(Full disclosure, again: The ‘Cat in the Stacks is not an M.D. nor does he have any medical experience whatsoever. If you believe you might have an actual sleep disorder, and not just the end-of-semester jitters, seek proper medical attention.)
I myself have been feeling the strain of late nights and early mornings, brought on mostly by nervousness about finishing projects on time. No matter how hard I try to push myself, I always come to the same conclusion: at certain times of day, our minds are just not ready to take on new information. Most days we try to push ourselves, thinking more about the grades and accomplishments than the mental health aspect.
The real response should be to give ourselves a break and do something constructive while our brains recover. During those times of day try going for a run, playing a video game, painting a picture, or even take a nap. We try to push ourselves as hard a humanly possible far too often in daily college existence – give yourself a break, and you might find that you return to the work fresher than before.
If unwinding at the end of the day is your issue (as it certainly is mine), I propose taking up some popular reading, or, if reading’s not your thing, some popular viewing. The library actually has resources for popular reading in the subject guides. And while Netflix is definitely popular viewing, I’m paid to promote the library, so check out this PBS Video Collection (there’s some real snoozers on there, but, if anyone asks, you didn’t hear that from me).
I’ve reserved this blog for mostly philosophical musings about the role of the library so far this semester. This week is different not from lack of imagination, but from understanding where we are collectively in the semester. If I had to write one more philosophical word this week, or if you had to read one more challenging text, our minds would certainly explode. Work hard these last few weeks, Wildcats, we’ve almost made it to the holidays.
Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.
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