Fantastic Friday before finals week

Sasha+Baumgartner+provides+readers+with+more+Unqualified+Advice+about+Valentines+Day+

Photo by Dave Jennings/Leslie Fireman

Sasha Baumgartner provides readers with more Unqualified Advice about Valentine’s Day

By Sasha Baumgartner, Columnist

Grinding down on four hours of studying with a day-old iced coffee, forgetting to sleep, shower and eat. Hoping and praying that giving up your existence for a time period will allow you to pass the final exam. This is the reality of what finals week has come to for so many individuals across the country in high school and college. It is not a pretty picture. 

Finals week has historically been one of the most stressful weeks of students’ lives. There is not just one big test, but multiple big tests in every class taken that semester. Not to mention, the tests cover everything learned over the course of the entire semester, so individuals must dig very deep back into their memory bank. The overall purpose and reason for the creation of finals is “To make a final review of the topics covered and assessment of each student’s knowledge of the subject.”  The final exam is looked at as the most important test to make sure students retain information from the class over the past few months. But, since the pandemic, some finals have become optional for students, or canceled altogether. This brings up the question: do we need final exams? Is it worth all the stress? Should students be able to decide themselves if taking the final would be beneficial for them? 

Final exams can be stressful, and often involve preparation in advance. (Photo by Getty Images)

All the expectations and stress students are experiencing during finals week has a negative psychological impact on them. When the body undergoes stress for a period of time, it can cause uncomfortable sensations and people begin to develop unpleasant emotions that can be difficult to handle, like anxiety, and anger in bursts. During finals week, students neglect their well-being and self-care, only focusing on studies – and that can have a tragic impact on one’s mental health. In an article posted by Daily Collegian, the students of Penn State take a look at the psychological impacts finals week has on students. Jennifer Graham-Engeland, a professor of biobehavioral health and the Director of the Stress & Health Lab, commented, “There are many ways in which stress can manifest [and] impair health and well-being.” “A common phenomenon is negative mood (anxiety, sadness, anger), which when prolonged by rumination can lead to exacerbated physiological stress responses.” 

Therefore, the stress students feel during finals week can actually cause them to develop unhealthy coping skills to handle their anxiety. 

This realization brings up the question: do school stressors, like finals week, actually contribute to some mental disorders experienced by students? Going through changes in teenage years is hard enough as it is. There are not just academic changes, but physical, social and environmental impacts. A study posted by NCBI states that “Roughly half of all lifetime mental disorders in most studies start by the mid‐teens and three‐fourths by the mid‐20s. Later onsets are mostly secondary conditions. Severe disorders are typically preceded by less severe disorders that seldom are brought to clinical attention.” 

So are stressors like finals really necessary when there is already so much stress happening for students? 

A scantron final exam can be equally as stressful as an essay or Socratic seminar. (Photo by ThoughtCo)

You may be wondering, well, Sasha, how do you feel about finals? Or you may not have, but lucky for you, you are going to hear my opinion. As a sophomore in high school, I have actually never officially had a finals week due to the pandemic. Last year, if students had a passing grade, it was not required of them to take finals, and now this year, students with an A or B are not required to take finals. Therefore, I made sure I would not need to take finals. 

In general, there are pros and cons to final exams. However, there are more cons than pros to final exams. Taking care of oneself is the most important thing in someone’s life. Self-care is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle filled with contentment. However, school activities and academics actually promote students to neglect their self-care particularly during finals week. Extra-curricular activities and assignments take an extensive amount of time out of people’s personal life. Overall, as a society there should be absolutely no reason we promote individuals to abandon their self-care. Self-care is so important because, if you think about it, how is someone supposed to feel good about themselves if they are unclean, exhausted and hungry? The answer is they simply will not feel good or content. That is why academic pressure like finals week is detrimental to students and causes them stress, anxiety and fear. 

Adults are all probably reading this and thinking, “I had to take finals and I survived.” But if you are an adult, I would urge you to think of your day-to-day life at your job. Is there ever a day or week where you are expected to complete 4+ projects in order to determine whether you can keep your job? Maybe there is, and that would justify final exams, but for the majority of jobs, you are not required to take multiple tests or complete multiple projects perfectly daily or weekly. So then why do we need final exams? What are exams doing besides hurting individuals’ mental health and causing stress?  There should not be one singular test that determines your livelihood. As humans, we deserve the right to take care of ourselves and not put our future on the line with tests. 

Finals becoming optional in many schools is a blessing in disguise. The idea that if students have an A or B then they do not need to take the final is golden, and will act as an encouragement to work harder during the semester to be rewarded at the end of the semester. At the end of the day, isn’t that what educators want? To encourage students to learn and work hard during the semester in their class. This final exam agreement will definitely do that. 

Whether you agree with me or not, a theme you can take out of the article today is self-care is key. So over winter break or the holidays, take some time to do some self-care. Take a hot bath, do a face mask, get plenty of sleep, and nourish your body. You will be surprised how much self-care can actually help your mental health. But, you could always not listen to me because, yet again, I don’t know.