Student Mental Health: The Cost of Finals

Photo by Pew Nguyen from, depicting a student studying.

It’s the “most wonderful time of year” again! A week before the start of winter break, lights are being strung, courses are wrapping up for the semester, and college kids are moving back home for the holidays. Yet, there is one cloud hanging over the entirety of Dublin High’s student body– finals week, which, for many, is a period filled with stress and all-encompassing anxiety. 

It’s a national problem, too: according to one article, 31% of American pupils consider final examinations such as midterms to be the biggest factor in their stress levels.

The transition back to a “normal” finals week post-quarantine has been particularly trying, especially for those new to in-person life at Dublin High. 

“A large majority of my freshman year finals were open notes during online school, decreasing the difficulty level a normal student would deal with in in-person school. For this reason, I feel unprepared due to my lack of study skills and afraid of upcoming finals,” reported Aishwarya Subramanian (10) to the Shield. 

Amongst the chaos, though, students still appreciate the efforts of DHS staff, as Subramanian notes. “Many of my teachers have implemented helpful study days. Although I came into this week feeling anxious and unprepared, I was happy to see that my teachers understood our situations and accommodated to our circumstances.” 

Sleep schedules have been detrimentally affected as well. “During finals week, I’ve been sleeping a lot later than usual – around 2:30-3 am. Although I’m studying more, I still feel as if I’m not doing enough – leading me to study more and sleep later/less.” explained Irleen Kaur (10) to the Shield.

This is particularly alarming when taking into consideration the already troubling conditions of teen sleep, as the CDC found that roughly 70 percent of high school students slept below the desired minimum of 9 hours if they had school the next day. Furthermore, it is generally recommended that students sleep well before exams, a fact that is largely ignored by much of the Dublin High population. Many students feel as if they need to internalize as much of the semester’s content as possible prior to facing the big test.

Overall, though the stress of finals week may seem unrelenting, it can be combated with proper self-care. “Don’t forget to eat, and drink something other than coffee even though coffee is amazing,” reported Amy Jiang (11) to the Shield when asked about self-care tips for finals week. 

Take advantage, too, of the 15 minute break between finals. There may be comfort in simply decompressing or sneaking in a well-deserved snack. When it comes to the unfortunate but common practice of cramming, be realistic: in the time before a test, it may be more helpful to review key concepts and sleep instead of trying to memorize a semester’s entirety at the last minute.

One way or another, winter break is right around the corner, with finals only lasting until December 22nd. Good luck, Gaels!