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5 tips to keep the holidays from interfering with fall semester

Cosette is a digital lifestyle expert who enjoys sharing simple tech hacks and tools. Aside from gadgets and apps, Cosette is a connoisseur of cats, fitness, and red wine.

Winter break is almost here, but first you have to pass your finals

The stress of traveling, shopping, and scheduling events during the holiday season is crazy enough, but as a student, you're also experiencing the added stress of preparing for the end of fall semester. This time of year is uniquely stressful for everyone, but the cards are really stacked against those of us currently pursuing higher education. From term papers to final exams and presentations, there’s a lot to prepare for to finish up your 2016 studies in the midst of the holiday season.

If you’re currently working on the process of finishing out this semester as strong as you possibly can, chances are, you could stand to benefit from a few tips to boost your ability to focus and spend your time efficiently. Here are five tips to increase your odds of acing your final tests and projects.

1. Study smarter, not harder

Spending hours in the library studying can only do so much. No matter how much time you dedicate to studying, your efforts will likely be fruitless if you don’t develop effective study habits that allow you to retain the information you’re taking in. This is why it’s important to focus on the quality of your study time rather than the quantity.

Most students could use a little help when it comes to identifying effective study methods. Although finding an effective study strategy that fits your unique learning needs will take some trouble shooting, reports show that there are several strategies that have proven most effective across the board in terms of information retention and focus. Over the next few days of studying, try out the following methods to identify which one works best for you:

Elaborative interrogation: Providing yourself with answers as to why fact is true

Self-explanation: Explaining a section of text or an example problem in your own words

Practice testing: Testing yourself on what you’re studying

Distributed practice: Splitting your studying up into several study periods

Interleaved practice: Mixing up the different problems you’re studying

More: 10 things you learn when you graduate college

2. Take a break from social media

One of the biggest gripes students have toward the end of a semester is that there simply isn’t enough time in a day. Interestingly enough, the average college student spends eight to ten hours on social media each day. That’s a whole lot of time spent checking in your friends’ statuses and photos that probably would have been better spent studying.

Give yourself the gift of time this semester by doing a social media detox in the weeks building up to the end of the semester. Commit to restricting your internet usage to study-related items and cut out the time you spend perusing your social media feeds. Not only will this give you more time to focus on your studies, but it will also help you realize just how much time you’re spending on social media each day and how you might be able to change that.

More: 7 etiquette tips for students graduating college

3. Take care of your body

As a general rule of thumb, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and eating well are important things we should do to maintain healthy, well-functioning bodies. What you might not realize, is that these things are absolutely necessary if you’re counting on the ability to focus to pass your courses.

All-nighters have been linked to impaired cognitive performance and stress. This means the late night cram sessions aren’t going to do you any good no matter how much coffee you drink to stay awake.

It’s also been shown that even just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve brain-processing speed and boost other cognitive functions. Sure, you’ll have to take some time away from your studies to hit the gym each day, but sparing 30 minutes to an hour will be well worth your time when you come back refreshed and ready to focus on your course materials.

4. Take a break from alcohol

Yes, I know it’s the holiday season, but taking a temporary break from boozing it up at holiday parties will seriously benefit you at the end of the semester if you just stick to it! Although there are reports out there that say drinking and studying go hand-in-hand, we all know that the day after drinking is basically a wash if you’re prone to hangovers which means you’ll lose a full day of productivity if you overdo it on a given night. The lack of motivation and overall blah feeling you get from a weekend of drinking certainly won’t help as you attempt to focus and participate in your classes on Monday either.

If you attend a holiday party and feel a bit awkward being the only one without a cocktail, try drinking a seltzer water or juice instead. That way you can still enjoy the event with a drink in your hand that will help you avoid questions from others who demand to know why you’re not drinking.

More: 12 college survival tips you won't hear from your guidance counselor

5. Reward yourself

Finally, we get to the easiest and most fun part which is to set up a reward system for yourself. For example, if you complete a solid hour of studying, you’ll allow yourself to take a break and grab your favorite snack from the store. Or maybe you could even make a deal with yourself that if you get a B or higher on your Chemistry exam you’ll purchase that dress you’ve been eyeing to celebrate.

When you give yourself something to work towards, you add an extra bit of motivation that doesn’t exist when you simply force yourself to study for hours on end without breaks.

Preparing to ace your final projects and exams during the holiday season is no easy feat, but it is definitely possible. With the right study tactics and a little self-care, you’ll notice your ability to focus and retain information will increase enough for you to effectively prepare to give your best performance at the end of this term.

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