It sounds so terminal?like an incurable disease whose end result is as excruciating as it is inevitable. I imagine a doctor in a lab coat standing gravely by at my bedside on a mid-May morning, stiffly clutching his clipboard. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kolowich," he softly utters. "I'm afraid you have...finals."

My mother weeps. I fight a rush of nausea and fix my gaze on the window, wondering what happened to the blithe innocence of my escaped youth.

I try to be brave.

"Will it hurt, doc?" I inquire, furrowing my brow.

"Only briefly," he responds in a practiced, dispassionate tone. "It only takes a few days before..."

He looks away. I nod slowly as questions fire through my brain. How did this happen? What did I do wrong? Who was responsible? What will happen after it's all (gulp) over?

It was on account of this recurrent nightmare that I started calling finals "exams." Of course, only days went by before I realized that this nomenclature inspired different but comparably unpleasant medical nightmares.

"It's time for your exam," says my professor. "Please take out your blue book and remove all your clothes."

There was another one wherein I take my exam while my professor sits in a chair two feet from my face, "examining" me and breathing audibly. I started sleeping with the lights on after that.

While the connotations of another alternative nomenclature, "tests," are broader, they are potentially the most terrifying. I can't help but imagine being beamed into the professorial mother ship, where my brain is "tested" interchangeably with questions about Locke's metaphysics and searing electrical currents.

So in the interest of avoiding these nightmares and limiting myself to rational terrors these next two weeks, I have decided to call exams "kittens" this year (as in "I was up all night studying for my history kitten," or "My kittens are going to rake me over the coals"). I figure that associating finals with fuzzy, adorable mammals will distract me from their apocalyptic implications. After all, who wouldn't look forward to a week of kittens?

Of course, the converse of this theory is that I will simply start hating kittens. Sure, maybe I stop dreaming about being probed and analyzed, but maybe next time a kitten paws playfully at the cuff of my pants, I drop-kick it into a lake.

Fortunately, this is a risk I'm prepared to accept.

Having disarmed them semantically, I am ready to begin preparing for my kittens practically, right? The answer, sadly, is no. Avoiding the psych-out is just step one. Step two is motivating myself to actually initiate the studying process.

This is often difficult because I don't know exactly what the study process should look like. Usually I will try to gather every shred of material that has been covered in a class and every page of notes I have taken. More often than not, this turns into a scavenger hunt when I realize that half my class notes for a given class are recorded in notebooks designated for other classes. I probably shouldn't have bought the same color for every subject.

It can also be difficult to locate notes that are separated from the rest by 20 pages of doodles. I mean, how did I possibly think I could make a flip book out of 8 1/2 by 11-inch notebook paper?

After I track down as many notes as I can, I abscond with them to an uncharted nook of the library and spread everything out on a table. This is usually when I glance at a clock and notice that compiling, transporting, and arranging all my study materials has taken three and a half hours.

Referring to the popular but dangerous logic that one's knowledge of a subject is directly proportional to the amount of time he has devoted to "studying" for that subject, I convince myself at this point that the last few hours have been highly productive and decide that a study break is in order.

I suppose my relationship with Facebook is like any addict's relationship with his opiate of choice: I hate it, hate it, hate it, and yet every time I lose focus on the task I ought to be doing, there I am, checking the "recently updated" profiles again.

"OK," I tell myself, "I need to figure out whether I want this paper to focus on the symbolic value of religious traditions or...Hey! An acquaintance from junior high updated her profile four minutes ago! I must investigate, now!"

A half-hour later, I start thinking that maybe I should get back to studying, seeing as how I haven't technically started yet. But inevitably, before I can even log off, that seductive procrastinator's logic strikes again. "I just made about 12 wall posts...that really doesn't count as a 'break,' per se," I reason. I decide that I have time to say hi to a friend who is studying nearby.

By the time that friend and I sit down at dinner over an hour later, I don't even remember where in the library I left all my books and papers. After an exhausting but ultimately successful post-meal search?and a subsequent nap?I'm ready to hit the books. I crack open my textbook to page one and learn that "anthropology" is "the study of human beings." Then the bell rings, indicating that I have 15 minutes to re-gather all my stuff and vacate the library.

This is the end, my only friend: the end. And as you prepare for the final sprint toward summer, I advise you to beware of the procrastinator's logic. Hit the books early and often; that way, when you realize what a painfully small percentage of your professors' lectures has stuck, you'll have time to have a nervous breakdown, recover, and then get some actual studying done before judgment day.

Take care, and good luck on your kittens.