FRANKE: Finals deal with more than grades

011_FRANKE_JOHNFinals are around the corner, and stress is starting to set in. To those of us that have been at Rockhurst for at least a semester, this sensation is nothing new. The sheer amount of content to review is enough to overwhelm even the most determined student. The late nights, the coffee and the stress usually end in dishevelment and an attitude of, “screw this, I’ll wing it.”

But perhaps there is a different way to approach finals.

I’m not talking about alternative ways to study for math or the best way to study for history–I am talking about a different way to view finals altogether. Since finals are 20% of our semester grade, we tend to approach them with a “make or break” attitude. And while finals have the potential to make or break a grade, they should not be allowed to make or break us.

Finals can create a tremendous opportunity to measure growth. They allow us to look back at the semester as a whole and see where we started. They let us track our academic progress, but they also lend perspective to other areas of our lives. By some strange mental connection, rehashing old math problems can sometimes rehash old memories, emotions and unique times in our lives.

We tend to see finals as the last academic hoop to jump through before break, and in many ways that is an accurate perception. But it is also incomplete. Finals can serve as “measuring sticks” for the various stages of our lives. The first semester of this year, for example, has marked fairly large changes in my life. I began a new job, I became more involved in school and I started thinking about college, among other things.

What does any of this have to do with a chemistry final? Well, as I look back through unit one and begin to review the material, I am reminded of the first time I learned it. I was in a completely different place at that point–a place of anxiety and uncertainty. And now, as I review for the final, I am reminded of how much further along I am.

Admittedly, none of this is incredibly helpful when it comes to getting a better score on finals. But approaching finals with a broader, more reflective perspective can help alleviate the stress we tend to feel. A new perspective on finals can also create opportunities for Ignatian-like reflection, which can be invaluable during what is often a transitional time.

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