Students’ Mental Health Threatened by Final Exams

By Margarita Artoglou

Miscommunication between departments and difficult schedules exacerbate the stress of finals week that already occurs. (Courtesy of Flickr).

Miscommunication between departments and difficult schedules exacerbate the stress of finals week that already occurs. (Courtesy of Flickr).

In the past week, there were at least two times I stayed up all night studying and went to bed after the sun rose.

This will, without a doubt, happen again within the following week. I am positive I am also not the only one on campus already planning out all-nighters and trying to pencil in some sleep.

My terrible sleeping schedule is not due to a lack of planning and preparation. Instead it is the fault of the timing of my final exams and final papers.

I am not alone in my pre-finals struggle.

“Almost everyone I know is really overwhelmed right now, including myself,” said Michelle Begun, GSB ’18. “Everyone has so much to do and not enough time to do it.”

Annie David, FCRH ’18 said, “It seems like everyone on campus is rushing to finish final projects that were assigned within the last week or so, and the added weight of finals coming up isn’t helping.”

This kind of pressure seems counter-intuitive to the purpose of getting an education.

Final exams and essays set up consecutively are not conducive to learning and can instead only be survived through late-night cramming and over-dosing on caffeine.

While most people pull the occasional all-nighter during the semester, it is not healthy to go days on end with minimal sleep. And yet, every finals week, students substitute hours of sleep with energy drinks or drugs.

According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 34 percent of college students illegally use ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin in order to focus on their studies. Additionally, a study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research found mentions of Adderall on Twitter spikes during the final-exam period.

There seems to be an attitude of acceptance when it comes to the stressfulness of finals. During finals week, I have hear friends talking about how sleep deprived and anxious they are. Under normal circumstances, this would be worrisome, but during finals, the only thing you can do to comfort a friend is to tell him or her that they will get through it.

It is not fair to be expected to write a long final paper or take an exam for each class within the same week.

However, everyone resigns to the layout of finals week because all universities seem to operate on the same schedule.

There is an acceptance, or even an expectation, that finals week will be rife with stress and no sleep, no matter what school one attends.

While we will all survive finals (mostly) unscathed, it is still detrimental to students’ mental health to go through such extreme pressure, especially if they already suffer from a mental illness like anxiety, depression or ADHD.

Still, there are actions that universities, and Fordham in particular, can take in order to make finals week slightly more bearable.

One suggestion is the addition of more reading days where no one is allowed to take an exam or hand in a paper.

Fordham does allot two days for studying, but many students end up taking department-wide exams on one of the days (language department, I am looking at you) or having other engagements, such as make-up classes or last-minute presentations. A couple of extra free days to devote to studying would be an immense help to students and would ease some of the anxiety surrounding finals.

Departments should also better communicate deadlines and test dates towards the end of the semester. While this is not an issue when it comes to finals week itself, as every class is given a specific date and time, the last few days of classes are often rife with students rushing to finish assignments and papers, often due on the same day.

It would not be difficult for each department to set aside separate days for final assignments to be due, especially interrelated departments that have a lot of overlap in students, such as biology and chemistry, or English and communications.

These changes will not happen in time for the impending finals week, but students should still be aware of their health during this stressful time. Until universities figure out how to structure finals so students do not feel the need to pull several all-nighters in a row or use drugs, students should know that taking the time to care for themselves by taking a nap every now and then could go a long way.

Margarita Artoglou, FCRH ’18, is a communication and media studies major from Queens. 


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