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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

Exam week scaries

As we come to the end of another wacky semester, we are yet again bombarded with an immense amount of projects, essays, presentations and exams to demonstrate our time in our classes. Sunday scaries are bleeding into weekday scaries, caffeine addictions are spiking and the lack of sleep is terribly expressed on all of our faces. Furthermore, with the weather shifting away from the iconic South Bend ice box to more pleasurable temperatures, and with the majority of people on campus receiving the second dose of the COVID vaccine, no one wants to be inside for long hours studying. It has been over a year since we were able to enjoy the outside world because of the virus, and everyone wants to take advantage of the sun and the healthier atmosphere. But alas, we must remain cooped up at our desks with our heads buried in laptops and textbooks to earn a piece of paper at the end of four years that labels us as “smart.” 

I can’t sit here and complain about exam week without acknowledging that I have chosen and continue to choose to spend the middle of December and May in a state of despair. I end each semester battered and exhausted from the tasks of exam week just to come back after winter or summer break and knowingly do it all over again. I press myself forward with the mindset that all the work I am putting forward will lead me to the career of a lifetime, setting myself up for success. However, every couple of weeks I am tempted to throw it all away and live in a small cottage, disregarding all my troubles. I know that all of the work and effort will all be worth it, as I’ve seen the correlations between hard work and success in other college graduates. It just takes a lot of energy to get there. 

We stress ourselves out during exam week, frantically trying to study as much as we can and use all of our waking hours as productively as possible to prevent failure in any of our classes. These culmination projects and exams feel as if they are supposed to judge how bright we are and how quickly we can develop our learning skills. As students attending a prestigious institution, these exams define our ability to navigate the collegiate world, thus determining our ability to thrive in the “real” world outside of our four years of undergrad. If we don’t do well during exam week, we continue to stress ourselves out, debating if we are even meant to go to college, and we feel that all of our hard work is wasted. How can we call ourselves successful college students if we are unable to excel in the one aspect of college that seemingly means the most?

I think one of the most important ideas to remember during this stressful time period is that the marks we make on these culmination projects do not determine our personal worth or our level of success as college students. We ideally spend four whole years in undergraduate, and letting eight weeks determine how we view our entire college life disregards all of the growth we have experienced in the other 112 weeks. Two hours in one exam period should not measure up to the hundreds of hours spent studying, learning and challenging ourselves through our school work. While it might be a good way to gauge collective learning, final exams do not define our utmost intelligence.

Furthermore, though we attend college mostly for academic purposes, we are also involved in different clubs, organizations, internships, on- or off-campus jobs, service projects and many other extra curricular activities. These not only take dedication and responsibility, but they also express our ability to hold time for multiple commitments at once while expressing our desire to make a better world four ourselves and those around us. Facilitating these activities exemplifies our ability to succeed just as much as our grades do, if not more; academics might develop our intelligence, but our chosen commitments develop our character.

This column is not meant to persuade you to give up studying for exams because I think they are meaningless; after writing this, I will reluctantly begin my research and outlining process for the several papers I have due in the next couple of weeks, and I will be joining my fellow peers with ghost-like appearances due to lack of sleep. However, I want to remind us that this next week does not supersede all of the work we have done in and out of the classroom this semester, and it certainly does not define who we are as college students or people. Our experiences throughout the entirety of our time on campus should not boil down to two hours in silence, word-vomiting into a blue book — but to all of our hard work in the four years we are here.

Sydni Brooks is a junior at Notre Dame studying English and gender studies. She is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and calls Flaherty Hall home on campus. With equal passions in writing and helping others, she hopes to serve her community well in her future. She can be reached at or @sydnimaree22 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.