Academic Stress and Accommodations: How Fitchburg State Can Help You During Finals

Jaxon Deary and Skip McDonald

With final exams just around the corner, Fitchburg State wants students to be well-informed on the academic accommodations available to them year-round. These services are committed to guiding students, reinstating academic confidence, and alleviating the anxiety that comes with their classes as the semester comes to a close. 


From tutoring services and academic coaching to financial advising and graduate school counseling, these programs are available to assist and lead students in their academic journey. 

The three most prevalent academic support programs are the Academic Coaching and Tutoring Center, Disability Services, and TRIO Student Support Services. 


The Tutoring Center is located in Hammond 306. During the academic year, they offer a mixture of walk-in, appointment-based, small-group, and online tutoring sessions in an effort to provide a flexible learning space for every student to utilize.


We spoke with academic coach Morgan Hakala, who works with students primarily on time management, schedule planning, and teaching studying strategies to combat procrastination. The Tutoring Center has student peer tutors available for almost every course, Hakala explained. Students who may be struggling in their courses have access to peer tutors who have demonstrated success in class and have received training to tutor. 


The Tutoring Center also has writing tutors available to help with writing essays on almost any topic. 


Hakala suggests taking a step further from rereading or rewriting your notes; creating a practice quiz instead, or having somebody else quiz you on your course material. Using flashcards or Quizlet can also refresh your memory on important subject matters before taking your exams. 


Hakala also underlines the importance of taking breaks. “Studying in shorter bursts over a long period of time is more effective than trying to study for hours on end over one day.”


The Tutoring Center would like to also inform students that they can reserve study spaces in the  Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library in Hammond on a first come first serve basis via the library website. Out of the 17 study rooms available, some spaces are capable of holding up to ten people, all with whiteboards and conference tables. 


Located in Hammond 303, we spoke with Julie Maki, Coordinator of the Adaptive Computer Lab, and Dr. Rachel Graddy, Director of Disability Services. Disability Services aims to empower students with disabilities to engage in all facets of academic, residential, and student life on Fitchburg State’s campus. These accommodations are performed by verifying student eligibility for accommodations with an application available both in person and on their website.


“That is how students get connected,” Graddy adds, “Once we look over their medical documentation and their registration forms, they are invited for a meeting either virtually or in person with me, and we talk through their specific accommodation needs.”


These accommodations are highly individualized, from services including extended times on exams, and note-taking assistance, to the use of screen reading software. The Disability Services office is also available for students who need a quiet space to do homework and study, regardless of registration status. 


“In the past, we had a group that met once a week,” Maki mentioned, “Where it was the group’s choice on what kind of programming we did within that hour.”


These group discussions are most commonly focused on inclusion in the campus’ social climate for students on the autism spectrum.


“One of the difficulties with a number of students on the autism spectrum is building friendships, finding a significant other, or speaking with people in authority, like a professor; and so these are things that they tend to want to learn techniques for…because it’s much different from the high school setting.”


With reference to overcoming the stress and anxieties of final exams, Graddy and Maki believe meditation and using the chunking technique in studying are beneficial preparations.


“Time management is the main part,” Maki added. “You just need to understand what your best style of remembering things is and then do that, just don’t do it the night before.”


Similar services are also available in TRIO Student Support Services, which specifically accommodate first-generation students, students who are low-income, or students who demonstrate an academic need for the program such as those having a low high school or university GPA or SAT score. 

The TRIO SSS (Formally known as Expanding Horizons), promotes the success of students who complete an application and meet the criteria above. In addition to academic counseling and time management training, TRIO SSS also provides pre-advising for course selections, mid-semester progress reports from faculty, financial aid advising, and social events on campus.


Elizabeth Swartz, Director of TRIO SSS provides her best tip for finals:
“Chew flavored gum or eat a piece of hard candy while studying and then eat that same flavor while taking the exam. Your brain will create additional pathways to memory that involve the smell and flavor of the gum or candy. (You know how you sometimes remember a song that played during a significant event in your life? It’s the same process!)”


TRIO SSS is located in Hammond 315. To find more information on TRIO SSS, Disability Services, or the Tutoring Center, stop by their offices or visit their websites at


It’s never too late to get the help you need, even during your final exams. Whether you’re a first-year student trying to settle into life at university or a senior trying to figure out your next move, Fitchburg State has the resources to help you succeed.