Opinion | I’m never really ready for finals

Maura Kate Mitchelson, opinions editor

Since I was 14 years old, I’ve had two weeks of final exams each year. I’ve had basically my whole life to adapt, but I always manage to forget just how stressful finals can be.

As I once saw on Twitter, “My assignments aren’t done, but I am.” It’s hard to keep your brain from going on cruise control after midterms end. I know that I have assignments, papers and presentations to work on, but I’m burnt out, and the stress of knowing I have so much to do weighs me down.

I try to put on a face mask, light a candle and just breathe during this time of year, but none of that calmness has ever carried over to the hours and minutes prior to an exam or presentation. No matter how many hours I’ve studied or how many bath bombs I’ve used, I always get nervous.

I know we have to have finals to test how much information we’ve retained from a course (which is, after all, what we’re all here for), but that doesn’t mean I wish we didn’t have them.

Nearly every test I take or presentation I give, I walk into the room a bit shaky and sweaty. But that’s doubled for finals. Sometimes I get so nervous beforehand that I’m afraid to even start studying. I don’t want to know how much I don’t know. Being a perfectionist who has test anxiety isn’t easy.

We feel so much pressure – whether it’s internalized or from an outside source – to ace every exam. That very same pressure can actually prevent us from doing so. The fear of looking at a study guide and having no answers can be so overwhelming that we decide not to buckle down until the last minute.

I’ll own up to not studying as much as I should sometimes, but it’s not because I’m lazy – it’s because I often worry about what would happen if I studied. This might sound dramatic and counterintuitive, but I know I’m not the only person who wants a good grade but is too afraid of the test to attempt studying for it.

I’m worried I’ll forget everything I’ve learned or blank on what I’m supposed to say during a presentation. But most of all, I’m so worried I’ll fail that sometimes, it’s hard for me to even try. Nothing terrible has ever happened to me during a final and I always manage to pull through in the end, but I seem to forget that every semester.

I’m not saying this to make you more nervous about the coming weeks. I’m trying to remind you that everyone gets nervous during finals. It’s fine to feel a bit on edge about tests, because that feeling will push you to study. That feeling is only a problem when it keeps you from trying.

It’s a bit hypocritical of me to be giving out tips on how to stay relaxed during finals, but hear me out.

You should drink a lot of water and eat healthier meals. Try to get eight hours of sleep a night (I know it’s uncommon, but at least try). Start studying at least a week before the exam. Don’t study in your pajamas or in your bed, or else you might be tempted to take a nap instead. Study with people who are in your class and won’t distract you from the task at hand. And honestly, just try your best. That’s all you can do, and most of the time that’s enough.