if only i’d known: final exams are not that final
You’ve just graduated from your final year of school. Your parents/guardians/teachers/siblings/friends/dog sat in a packed auditorium and beamed with pride as you smugly strutted across the stage to collect some kind of high school memorabilia (mine was a mug!). If of course by strut what I actually mean is that you anxiously avoided eye contact and paid very special attention to each step, desperately pleading with a higher being to allow you to cross the stage without tripping and flashing your floral panties to a crowd of unsuspecting spectators, then strut you did!
But for now the festivities are over and you sit filled with mixed emotion. You’re excited at the prospect of life without the routine nine to three and a swarm of teachers breathing down your neck. You feel a strange longing for your daily interactions with school friends, despite maintaining regular contact, and you feel an overwhelming sense of dread as you consider the exams you’ll sit in just a few days time.
Your teachers and possibly even your parents have spent the last two years raving about scaling and ranking and all manner of things you can’t control and don’t understand. You’re growing more anxious by the day and you notice your blood pressure increase exponentially as the days pass too quickly for your liking. With the setting of each sun you promise yourself tomorrow will be a more productive day.
Anyone who has been there understands.
We know that inexplicable concoction of elation, pride and sheer horror that makes your stomach churn and we want you to know you’re not alone.
End of school exams and the pressure they bring with them (usually in the form of university admission) can be overwhelming and can often have a serious effect on your mental health. The expectations we have of ourselves and that niggling voice that keeps reminding us we might fail can make it hard to believe in ourselves.
But as a survivor of end of school examinations I’d like to tell you in no uncertain terms that these exams will not be the end of the world as you know it.
Sure, they’re a big deal right now, and for most of you it’s probably the biggest thing you’ve done — that’s not to be downplayed or underestimated — but I promise you it’s only the beginning of a life that can be as fulfilling and satisfying as you make it, regardless of what comes next.
I promise you that the most important thing will always be whether or not you’re a good person. I encourage you to always see yourself that way. To always evaluate how kind, respectful and even understanding you are toward other people.
I especially promise you that your self worth is not and will never be tied to the number you are awarded in mid December.
Everybody you come in contact with seems to be speaking about these final exams as if they really are final. As if passing, failing or disappointing yourself is all you will ever know. As if the way you feel when you learn your result will stay with you forever.
I promise you it won’t.
I promise you that there is light at the end of the tunnel no matter how poorly you perform on your economics exam (I didn’t even finish mine). I promise you that forgetting the quadratic equation does NOT mean you will never amount to anything (I can’t even remember what that is and I’m doing a PhD).
I can also promise you, the moment you finish that final exam will be the first anti-climax of many in your young adult life. You might scream with delight because somebody tells you to (my friend did this). You might skip through the halls and say ‘it’s over’ (I did this). You might tear up the study notes you’ve made over the year in a final act of defiance (go for it!). But the real feeling of relief will not hit you all at once. It’ll come in small bursts when you’re watching a Gossip Girl marathon and realise you can actually sit here all day and do this without feeling guilty. It’ll come in the form of a dismissed thought as you sit with your best friend and lament the many reasons you still have a crush on the boy in your chemistry class and realise you do in fact have time for another scoop of ice-cream.
The stress can be difficult to manage but don’t let it control you. Most importantly, know it’s only temporary. Believe wholeheartedly that you’re more than the result of an exam and you always will be.
If you do feel like the stress is overwhelming, talk to a trusted adult or friend or download some fact sheets on stress management at Youth Beyond Blue. If you’d like phone counselling, give the Kids Helpline a call on 1800 55 1800.
Some other useful sites are below — don’t procrastinate by visiting them.
Sending you good vibes and lots of luck,
Other useful links:
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