Finals week is a week during which university students become bitter, resentful and hostile towards all things related to education and social order. Methods developed to cope with finals week include:
- Wanton drunkenness1
- Wanton sex
- Wanton drunken sex
... or simply avoiding the whole mess entirely by finding some other distraction2. Like popping off to type up more entries for the h2g2 Guide. Like this one.
In reality, this would be the period of time at the end of the scholastic year (or semester or quarter, depending on the institution) during which professors give their students the largest, most obnoxious exam conceivable. Classes are cancelled so as to facilitate the taking of exams, as most exams are hours longer than the actual classes were. Even if one is majoring in a subject impossible to test - Fine Art, for example - there is no respite from exams. For these subjects, a unique and equally dreadful type of test called the 'performance review' has been invented. It's really just a big, cumulative exam wherein the student produces examples of all the work done in the class. Sometimes these can be quite uplifting, but often they are more personal and unpleasant than a written test. This ordeal usually lasts about a week, although finals can overflow into another week if circumstances allow them to do so.
The Loudest 3-8 Days of Your College Year
Many students have a tendency to over-stress themselves when the pressures of the impending exams begin to build up. One curious result of this is the desire to attend more and louder parties in one brief weekend than in the rest of the semester. These parties (and the resultant hangovers and after-party clean-ups) pretty much eliminate any possibility of studying or research, thus necessitating the dreaded all-night cramming session the evening before the exam.
Students and professors alike dread finals week more than any other event. Taxes are more fun than final exams.
The Road Trip
One very effective way of escaping the pressure of finals is to do just that: escape. A handful of students pile into a car and hit the road, not to return until their stress is relieved or they get bored and turn back. Sometimes there is a specific destination in mind, sometimes not. Sometimes the trip consists of getting hopelessly lost and then trying to find the way back. It really doesn't matter. The important thing is the change of surroundings. To leave campus is to leave behind all the things that make finals so horrible.
A plethora of different locales can serve as good road-trip destinations, as long as one is imaginative enough to recognise the possibilities. All that is required is that these are not places to which one would normally go during the scholastic year.
Concerts and amusement parks seem like great places to relax and just have fun for a day. Places like that are okay, but they have their own problems, not least of which is cost. College students are notoriously poor, so the prospect of spending money that could easily buy a week's worth of noodles, pizza and beer isn't as good an idea as one might think.
A good destination is someplace cheap (or, better yet, free), relatively easy to get to and at least mildly entertaining. Driving for two hours to see a matinee showing of a movie that isn't playing locally isn't unheard of. Neither is just popping off to have a picnic at a scenic overlook. National parks, forests, natural wonders and historical sites are all great places to unwind and forget educational matters for a day or two.
If the university in question isn't in a metropolitan area, then heading to a major city might be the thing to do. New York City, with its museums, national landmarks and tourist attractions, is a great example of a road trip destination. And, if it comes to it, there is a lot to be said for strip clubs and unfamiliar bars. It sounds expensive, but there is usually at least one person in the car who has a friend or relative in the city who will be more than happy to provide a floor to sleep on, and maybe even a meal or two.
Of course, simply running away from finals doesn't mean that the stress and frustration go away too. Hence the inevitable drunken parties.
The Finals Week Party
Of the many end-of-year celebrations, those parties that occur during finals are the wildest. Unfortunately, some people - the type of people who don't get invited to the really good parties - are of the belief that to really cut loose at the climax of the scholastic year is counter-productive. They don't know what they're missing. What we're talking about here is the type of party that seems to be unique to the college environment: the year-end blow-out. There are a few key characteristics that define this type of party:
Location - the evening is held in either an apartment or house populated entirely by students. Ideally, the entire apartment complex or residential block is student-dominated. This reduces the number of visits by the Police, as well as increasing attendance.
Attendance - no matter how large the available space, there must be at least twice as many attendees as the space can comfortably hold. Dancing complicates this, which only serves to make things more interesting.
Music - the music, whatever it may be, should be much, much too loud. This is college, after all. As the adage goes, if it's too loud, you're too old.
Dancing - there should be a dance floor, but any open space will do. It will be sweaty, possibly stinky, and densely-packed with the grinding, thrusting, gyrating bodies of students.
Beer - the most common beverage is a cheap, generic plastic cup filled with a cheap, generic beer. Water and other beverages should be made available for designated drivers and party-goers trying to sober up.
Other drinks - there should also be alcohol available in a variety of forms, including hard liquors, mixed drinks, Jell-O shots3 and the ever-popular party punch (aka 'jungle juice'). Also, any finals week party where wine is served instead of beer or liquor isn't likely to be attended by people that like having fun, and as such should be avoided at all costs.
Restrooms - after all that drinking and dancing, people are going to need a place to pee. Most student-minded apartments will have multiple facilities, and these will always be inadequate. Especially after the first inexperienced (or over-experienced, as the case may be) party-goer decides to do the technicolour yawn into the bathroom sink.
Snacks - food is not absolutely necessary, but is greatly appreciated by party-goers. A giant bowl of pretzels is sufficient.
Optimally, the Police will show up sometime after 1am. All this means is that one of the neighbours is annoyed, either at their lack of sleep due to the noise, or the fact that they weren't invited. In college towns the Police are used to this sort of thing happening towards the end of the year. Unless they spot something that really deserves their attention, they should just issue the traditional warnings to keep it down and then be on their way. This visit should be taken as a signal to the hosts that the party is a success. The only acceptable reason for the Police not coming is that the neighbours are at the party as well.
Many students will tell you that, after a long night of partying, the one thing on their mind is a ten-pound sledgehammer whacking away over and over again. While not entirely accurate, this is a reasonable description of a post-binge hangover. Avoid this experience if you can. If not, there are many, many cures for hangovers, a lot of which are based on pure hope.
After a solid week of alternately suffering through exams and drinking to forget them, no student is the same. This is well illustrated by the soon-to-come grade sheets, which point out just how bad things really got. Basically, the lower the anticipated final grade, the drunker the student became. Such behaviour often ensures the expected result. Luckily, the way most colleges and universities work allows a considerable grace period before the grade sheets are sent home. During these fleeting weeks students may concoct all sorts of tall tales to explain why they performed so poorly on their exams. Unfortunately, many parents still have fuzzy memories of their own college experience, so they aren't going to buy most stories.