Finals shouldn’t have the power to destroy cumulative grades

Finals season, otherwise known as the most wonderful time of the year, has drawn to a close. The migrations to Gelman Library were in full swing the past two weeks, accompanied by neverending coffee runs and immeasurable amounts of stress.

It’s hard enough to juggle tests and papers for every class with due dates all in a roughly two-week timespan, but it’s even worse when each of those individual tests or papers can count for as much as 45 percent of your grade. A grade on a final exam, paper or project in a class shouldn’t have the power to destroy your cumulative grade for the semester. It’s unfair to put students in a position where large portions of their grades for each of their classes are all on the line simultaneously.

To prevent this, the University should implement a limit on all courses stating that finals cannot be worth more than 30 percent of the final grade for a class. An employee at the Office of the Registrar confirmed this week that there is currently no set limit on how much a final exam, paper or project can count in a final course grade. Placing this limit would allow wiggle room for students if their score on the final doesn’t reflect their effort from the semester.

For instance, if a hardworking student has an A or A-minus in a class but then struggles on their final exam and gets a C, then their grade could drop down to a low B if their final is worth 40 percent of the grade. If the same student got the same grades with the final only counting for 30 percent of the grade, they would earn a high B. The shift in the weight of the final exam from 40 to 30 percent would translate to a cumulative final grade for the course that better represents the student’s hard work throughout the semester.

Professors who currently attribute 40 percent or more of a course grade towards a final should lower that percentage to 30 and include additional grades like homework assignments, papers, attendance or participation. By doing so, grades would be more balanced and offer more opportunities for students to improve throughout the semester.

Not only does finals season put students’ GPAs at risk, but it also puts students’ mental health at risk. The stress of extra studying and writing – in as many as six classes – on top of the pressure to not ruin a grade that could get you on the Dean’s List is a toxic combination.

Self care and mental health are common phrases thrown around on college campuses today, especially around finals. But we rarely talk about what they actually mean. Students often joke about how finals make them depressed, but it’s a little different for people who have depression year-round. In my case, my reaction to abnormal amounts of stress is that I stop eating. It’s not a conscious decision – it just happens. I’m never hungry, so I forget about meals until my roommate directly asks if I’ve eaten that day, usually around 4 or 5 p.m., and promptly drags me out of the room to get food when I respond that I haven’t.

With the inability to maintain a healthy meal time schedule also comes the inability to form a sustainable sleep schedule. During finals season and the last couple weeks leading up to it, I typically sleep from 3 or 4 a.m. until noon. Although this is a reasonable amount of hours, my sleep schedule is unhealthy because I go to bed and shut off all the lights by midnight every night, but I’m unable to fall asleep for several hours. When you’re panicking and only focusing on finals, it makes your mind prioritize studying and writing over sleeping and eating, which is detrimental to both your mental and physical health.

Normalizing all-nighters and putting grades before both physical and mental health is negligent at best and downright dangerous at worst. The stress of finals season leads to increased levels of overall anxiety among student populations, as well as increases in unhealthy behaviors. In a recent study by MentalHelp, 31 percent of students surveyed responded that finals were their number one source of stress. The American College Health Association has also reported that more than 34 percent of students said the stress of finals have led to poor academic performance.

Every finals season is different among students, but they all share the common denominator of heightened stress and anxiety. This past semester, I’ve had three papers, two exams and a take-home test. And four out of the six were due in a four-day span.

If students were placed in a less stressful position where finals were worth a smaller percentage of their grade, it would lessen students’ anxiety levels, reducing the risk of participating in potentially dangerous behaviors. This is especially important with the prevalence of mental health issues on campus in recent years after three students committed suicide on campus in 2014.

Additionally, all students learn and test differently. Some people are more talented writers while others may be better test takers. Having someone’s last grade of the semester depend on if they were lucky enough to have that final assignment in the format that’s their strong suit isn’t fair. However, if the final only counts for 30 percent, then it is more reasonable for all students, regardless of their abilities.

Your entire semester grade and GPA shouldn’t depend so heavily on your performance during finals season. Everybody has bad days, and you shouldn’t be punished if you happen to have an off day during finals season. Placing a limit on the weight of the final exam would minimize the chance of this continuing in the future.

Kris Brodeur, a sophomore double majoring in international affairs and Latin American and hemispheric studies, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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