What is ‘Crunch Time?’…and how to make it less ‘crunchy’


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I might be the only one laughing at my made up title, but parents and students must be aware of this hellish phenomenon that all students go through! ‘Crunch time,’ sometimes known to families as ‘hell week,’ ‘testing period’, ‘exam cram’ or ‘overload,’ is the horrible period in school where tests and assignments all seem to be due at the same time. It happens for most students at least two times per semester for finals and/or midterms. It is important for parents to be aware of crunch time and what happens for their kids during this stressful period.

What is ‘Crunch Time?’

Crunch happens during the school year, in between the start of semesters and testing periods. Usually parents and students are aware of midterm time and final time, but teachers also assign projects or have at least one test before midterms and finals. As students, we would always joke that the teachers schemed to torture us by scheduling all of the projects, oral reports, tests, assignments and research papers to be due on the same three days—at least it always felt that way.

Of course, teachers do not mean to plan it this way, and often try to avoid it by using synchronized test calendars. Yet, teachers tell me, that when they sit down to plan their syllabus at the beginning of a school year, many of them will assign a project a week into school, give students four to six weeks to complete it and then have it due right in the between the first day of school and midterms. Again, it also makes logical sense to have a test in between the first day of classes and the midterm to check on a student’s progress. Teachers usually also schedule tests in the middle of this period. Therefore, due to logical teaching methods, teachers are doomed to set tests and projects around the same time!

What are the consequences of Crunch Time?

With all tests and projects converging at the same time, students feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they have for each of their classes.

1.)Getting Sick- Not only do they have a very stressful week leading up to crunch week studying and preparing, but also during the actual crunch week students get very little sleep and eat poorly while trying to keep up energy. This combined with just general stress of doing well makes it so everyone then gets sick the week after crunch week. Ever noticed how students always get sick at the same time? This is why! Almost everyone gets sick after crunch week due to the added stress–even students who managed to not have a particularly bad week will get germs from other students and get sick too.

2.)Getting in Fights at Home- Nerves are high, brains are full and the last thing students want to think about on top of their school work is household chores or eating their vegetables. Even though students do not usually want to do this, during crunch time they have a harder time containing their contempt for these activities. A parent who encounters a cranky student during crunch time, will also get cranky which leads to massive household fights or disagreements.

3.)Bad Grades– Tests and assignments are hard enough when you don’t have another test later in the day. Students usually handle crunch time two ways. The first way is to study as much as they possibly can until their brains feel waterlogged and barely able to retain another fact. This usually results in over anxious nerves during the test and brain dumps (unloading everything with or without the right answer on essays and tests). The second option for students is to get so overwhelmed to not study at all and just hope for the best. Either way, having so many tests and assignments at the same time severely impacts grades.

How to Alleviate Crunch Time Stress:

•Know when ‘Crunch Time’ is- Students should look at their syllabus at the very beginning of the semester and highlight all tests, quizzes, projects and assignments. Then they should look at all of their classes and figure out where most of them coincide—that big neon yellow area, that’s crunch time.

•Tell your parents, Tell Yourself (and maybe Tell the Teachers)- Write all of the assessment dates and titles in a planner for you to see which is on what day. Tell your parents when your hell week is and put it on the family calendar. If it looks like you have more than three assessments on one day, go to one of your teachers and explain the situation EARLY! Show them your calendar, the teacher will probably be relieved to know about the crunch time for other students as well, and be impressed that you are such a forward thinker!

•Plan it and Start Early- You know when it is coming, so students should start early on a project, do research or get library books a few weeks ahead of time so you will get the best books and already have them sitting in your room. If it is a project that involves supplies, go shopping the week before so you can start right away the next weekend.

•Make Compromises- Parents can make the weekends before and after very light so there is ample time to study, sleep and relax. Maybe take a few chores of the list as a nice gesture: “I will do the dishes all that week, so you have more time to study, hopefully it will make you more relaxed and help your grades.” Parents can let students know they being supported and this will help the crankiness and the pressure.

•Recover and Prevent- Everyone hates getting sick. Here are some easy ways to try to stay healthy: Try to get a little time for sleep, and if that is impossible drink more OJ the whole week during crunch time, stay away from people who have ‘allergy’ sniffles and take some extra Vitamin C tablets in the morning during crunch weeks. The week after when everyone else is getting sick, drink lots of water and keep washing your hands.  This would greatly help recovery time after ‘crunch time” is over.

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