Thursday, December 16, 2010

Final Story

Kelsey Carey - 10998309

Are college students' dangerous study habits affecting final exams?

Pre-engineering calculus, gen-ed and chemistry exams, 10-25 hours of studying for each, with just three hours of sleep in the past three days.

Sound like a perfect recipe for a nervous breakdown? Not for freshman mechanical engineering major, Teagan Ryan.

“I spent almost the whole time at the library, a couple friends and I found a great spot and have come every day since dead week,” said Ryan. “Our record was 15 hours straight!”

Ryan’s study regime regularly consists of studying late at night because she enjoys the quiet. However the aid of coffee, caffeinated soft drinks and occasional Adderall usage has been incorporated for finals week.

Adderall is a stimulant containing amphetamine, used to improve attention span and lessen impulsivity, according to It is prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorders and occasionally Narcolepsy.

Sociology professor Michael Allen commented on how students usually look as they come into his class for exams.

“Students often look tired and I couldn't honestly tell you how many are on some kind of stimulant,” said Allen.

The cause of the zombie-like nature of their students on test day is not lost on professors, or the general public for that matter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while only 1 in 12 Americans are actually diagnosed with ADHD, the sales of Adderall have increased more than 30-fold since 2001 according to ABC news.

Although students who take these drugs for stimulatory purposes are at risk for several side effects, a severe lack of sleep is what many professors are noticing the most as hindering students.

“When students arrive for a final exam, they usually look stressed and tired. Many are disheveled and also smell bad,” said sociology professor and grad student Craig Macmillan. “It is rare that a student comes to a final exam calm, cool and collected.”

This look of extreme exhaustion is somewhat common amongst college-aged students. Sophomore business major Chris Weber also sacrificed sleep in order to prepare for two finals on Tuesday.

“I drank energy drinks, took occasional breaks, and listened to a lot of music,” said Weber. “When I actually took the exams, my focus was lacking and it was hard for me to recall information because of not sleeping.”

Macmillan believes this behavior is not only harmful to test scores, but also very unhealthy for students.

“Lack of sleep and poor nutrition only compound anxiety. I worry that students actually make things harder for themselves by not taking care of themselves during times of stress,” said Macmillan.

So are the all-nighters necessary? The answer to this question is split between the student and the professor.

“[These study habits] probably do work for some students and not for others.  Everyone handles the stress of finals week differently,” said Allen. “I would guess that the better students are more prepared throughout the semester and experience less stress (and need fewer stimulants) than other students.”

Ryan and Weber however believe it is not necessarily about being less prepared, but simply having far too much stress during both dead week and finals week.   

“I think that really not having any homework during dead week is a good idea, “said Ryan. “Maybe making dead week less busy so people can get a head start on their studying instead of cramming the night before would be helpful.”

Contact list:

Chris Weber – in person interview – 916-479-0256
Teagan Ryan – in person interview – 360-624-7552
Craig Macmillan – - 509-335-4595
Michael Allen –


James, Susan Donaldson. “Adderall abuse alters brain, claims a young life.” ABC news. 08 Nov. 2010.

“Glossary” ADHD News. 2008.

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