As actuarial students, it’s a given that we all must have strong time-management and prioritization skills. Typically, this is a quality that improves over time, but with the holiday season, we may find ourselves with an overwhelming increase of distractions. Torn between the obligation to study and spending time with family and friends, we face a seasonal challenge that becomes a hard decision.
Step one is to plan ahead. The Society of Actuaries website posts exam dates months in advance. If you have the ability to schedule your exam sitting prior to the holidays, you will be able to avoid this challenge altogether. Alternatively, make sure you are sitting for this exam at a late enough time to get comfortable with the information. We all want to enjoy the holiday traditions, so it is important to put in as much work as possible during downtime leading up to holiday events.
Step two is to focus on priorities, which will make you happiest in the long run. You may think your first priority is to lock yourself away in the library, but cramming for upcoming exams will only take you so far. Invest your energy and time into studying when you can, but also take time off to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Create a study plan ahead of time. Spend time with family and friends you don’t always get to see. Take part in the important traditions. Skip dinners out and activities every once in a while. Find comfortable libraries and study rooms around town, and fit in practice exams at times that you can really give it all of your attention. By conquering a challenging study schedule and fitting in festivities, you will be able to invest time studying while enjoying the holiday season.
Step three is to inform your friends and family of your plans. Last Thanksgiving, my extended family planned a trip to Disney as I prepared for my first sitting of Exam FM. I was worried that my cousins would expect me to spend the full seven days with them at the parks. When purchasing park passes, I decided four days would be enough for me; for the other three days, I would stay home and meet them for dinner. By planning out which parts of which days I would actually be available, my family was aware when to leave me alone and when to appreciate my company. Although this was a challenge to stick to my study plan, it helped me to keep on schedule and enjoy my vacation as much as possible.
One final note about balancing exam preparations with the holiday season: friends and family always come back. It is never easy to turn down plans to spend time with friends and family when you are home for the holidays. It is important to keep in mind that when you are done studying, your friends and family will still be there and respect you for working so hard. Pass or fail, your loved ones will be proud, and they will be eager to spend holiday time with you again.