If I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me, “How’s senior year going?” and I responded, “Oh, it’s going,” over the past two months, I’d be able to buy my way into an Ivy League school.
Unfortunately, there is no monetary reward for my steady stream of sarcastic comments, the intensity of which has grown exponentially as the number of days until Nov. 1 has shrunk. As a junior, I watched the Class of ‘18 buzz around campus with a caffeine-fueled hyper-alertness as each one seemed to complain even louder than the one before, all about the same topic: college applications. I told myself that my grade would do things differently; we’d finish our standardized testing by the end of junior year, take English teacher David Wells’ advice to write our essays over summer break, and complete senior year stress-free. For the first time ever, my optimism failed me.
Today, the seniors are just as on-edge as the last group: so sleep-deprived that we seem to only have enough energy to chase down college counselor Marvin Coote in the hallways, constantly begging teachers to push off major assignments until after X college’s application deadline, and all responding to any request with, “I can’t––I have to work on my essays.” And yet as Nov. 1 approaches and the seniors seem on the verge of pulling their hair out, there is yet another source of our constant sense of impending doom: finals.
If given the opportunity to debate on whether Pinewood should have final exams, almost every student on campus would be prepared to argue for the negation. But the seniors in particular have a strong reason to tremble at the thought of the series of two-hour exams that require weeks of intense studying: the fact that those same weeks are also supposed to be spent writing the essays that could determine how they spend the next four years of their lives.
The fiery clash between finals and college essay writing has caused many high schools, including The Harker School, to get rid of finals for seniors. According to Harker students and administration, voiding finals allows seniors more time to work on college applications throughout the month of December. Focusing solely on essay writing and getting the applications submitted on time detracts from the inevitable stress that comes at the end of the semester, eliminating the chance of a poor work product on either college applications or finals that could potentially be the result of having to juggle both. Harker is similar to Pinewood in the sense that both are academically intensive college preparatory schools.Most seniors at Pinewood are applying to many colleges, and getting rid of finals would allow Pinewood seniors to focus on perfecting their applications to the best of their ability.
The argument in favor of final exams is centered around the idea that students need to take a cumulative studying approach to make sure they fully grasp all the material they learn each semester. However, AP courses at Pinewood are formatted to make each exam throughout the semester cumulative, and as the majority of seniors will be thrown into the greedy hands of the College Board one last time during AP Exam season this coming May, the added stress of finals may do more harm than good.
Any opposition to getting rid of finals is understandable; as the inevitable widespread onset of senioritis looms closer and closer, the administration may look to final exams as a way to hold seniors accountable. But the fact is that the seniors have been holding themselves accountable for seven stressful semesters and are more than capable of finishing an eighth one strong. After all, the entire student body is incredibly thankful that their parents are able to send them to private school, and would surely think twice about throwing away five more months of potential learning opportunities once Jan. 1 rolls by. The fact of the matter is that those two-hour tests are so time-consuming and stressful that they distract monumentally from what the seniors have been working towards for the entirety of their high school careers: getting into the college of their dreams. In the interest of the seniors’ application success and mental health, Pinewood should do what is best for its students and free seniors from the overbearing weight of finals.