Move Over Finals, Here Come the Holidays

Finals were something most students did not want to hear, as students stepped into 2022

Finals before 2022 allowed students to relax over winter break.
(Illustration by Ruby Yang)

Before this school year’s change, many students struggled with how the finals schedule was arranged. From the week before Christmas to the final week of fall semester, during these long two weeks, stress only seemed to snowball and fester.

Winter break is intended for all to relax and rest, not a time to hunker down and study for multiple tests. The holidays should be filled with joy and cheer—from going on ski trips to watching “Elf” and ‘singing loud for all to hear’.

“I think something positive [about having finals before winter break] is that once we get [them] done… we can have a pure two week relaxation and hang out with our friends and our family. I think that we should have all our finals before winter break, but maybe not necessarily all in the same week, because then it might be a lot for students,” junior James Jones said.

Especially this year, students may find this easy to relate, as having all finals during one single week can often seem like an enormous mental weight.
Nonetheless, science teacher Julie Chang’s perspective makes it clear—not only students, but also teachers, support a stress-free winter break during this time of year.

“I do think [winter break] should be spent with family. I do think it should be spent decompressing. I do think it [also]should be spent reconnecting and celebrating… And even for students who don’t have [holiday traditions], I think they need that pause to step away from their academic studies and the intensity of the first semester,” Chang said.

Additionally, finals after break can cause stress, which can consequently curtail student success. Furthermore, from a counseling perspective, counseling department co-chair Elizabeth Taylor agrees that finals before winter break can be substantially more effective. She brings to light that finals before the winter vacation can give more time for counselors to work with their seniors and augment communication.

“What I like about having exams closer to break is [the counselors] have a lot of seniors that we need to make sure [are] on track for graduation, and so that transition typically occurs from fall to spring semester for seniors… So my hope is that… we [will] have more time to process their grade for fall semester and intervene or… set up a better plan for them if needed,” Taylor said.

As for final exams after the winter break, sophomore Meera Sambhwani reiterates that tests after New Year’s are not something students would want to take.
“You would have to remember everything. And I feel like once you go on a break, you just kind of want to forget everything about school and just leave. So that’s probably the hardest thing,” Sambhwani said.

Despite the perks of having finals before the new year, it is important to acknowledge that the stress associated with finals does not just disappear. Some may even characterize December 2021 as the toughest time in their high school career. The instructional time for teachers was nine less days, causing the curriculum to speed up, impacting students and teachers in several negative ways. Teachers began to feel crammed with too much to teach, as students felt overwhelmed with their multiple classes.

However, once the hard work was done by the end of the year, students could truly smile from ear to ear. Finals were done and winter break had at last begun. Staff and students alike could finally sigh as they bid finals an unapologetic goodbye. The stress was now a thing of the past, and the gift of feeling accomplished would only last. Face it; winter break was here, and now everyone could go out and blissfully enjoy the holiday cheer.

While moving all finals to before winter break may be a difficult transition for students and teachers to make, it is crucial to consider what is at stake—greeting students with finals when their recollection of concepts may be less strong, to put it simply, is just all wrong.

Finals before winter break should be a permanent policy to put in place, because evaluating the impacts upon students’ mental health is a topic that, inevitably, all schools will need to face.