Why finals should be before winter break


Photo by Sophie Schlosser

Pictured above is junior Jaelin Nakagawa completing some pre-exams busy work in the library.

Picture this: It was Friday, December 14, 2017, at Millbrook boarding school. The insidious and anxiety-driven week of ceaseless studying, sleepless nights, and caffeine-induced meltdowns was finally coming to an end. I could see the finish line as I scribbled the final words of my essay into the blue exam booklet on my desk.

“Times up, pencils down,” Ms. Peterson said as the clock ticked 4:00 PM.

Suddenly, the dark, grey, lifeless campus emerged from its week-long hibernation. The 315 zombies who made up the student body were now jumping for joy, wearing smiles ear-to-ear – Millbrook was alive. Kids hucked their binders and notebooks in the trash can and proceeded to perform some sort of “rain dance” deriving from the pure joy in the air.  

As I sat on my suitcase awaiting the bus to transport me to the airport, the words “WE DID IT!” rang in my head, while one of my teachers hugged me good-bye and said, “Have an amazing break, you deserve it.”

I will never forget the warm feeling that overtook me when I internally realized that she was right: I did deserve this. We all deserved this. After this mind-numbing week, I was drained and in urgent need to revive my vitality. But most of all, I was thankful that my tireless efforts were being rewarded.

Having those next two weeks away from school was the perfect way to de-stress and replenish my motivation and ambition to succeed academically for the next semester. By the time break was over, I could already see the next finish line far in the distance, and I was willing and eager to get there and cross it all over again.

After two years of attending Millbrook, I gathered a few key takeaways from experience, one of them being that taking exams before winter break is unquestionably better for the student population.

Unfortunately, at Aspen High School, exam week regularly takes place two weeks after winter break. Although this inconvenience is said to prevent interferences with the required International Baccalaureate hours, as well as maintain the equity of two balanced semesters, the number of reasons to move exams prior to winter break outweigh the limitations.

At the thought of winter break, visions of ecstasy come flooding into my mind: curling up by a toasty fire post-shred and enjoying some hot chocolate, waking up at 12pm without the blood-curdling sound of an alarm clock, laughing until tears cascade down my cheeks at the Will Ferrell holiday classic ‘Elf,’ and most of all, releasing all the pent up stress and anxiety that school inevitably causes.

When I think of exam week, however, visions of misery bubble to the surface: curling up in a dangerously tight ball post coffee chug, maintaining an unhealthy sleep average of 3-4 hours per night, hysterically crying to my therapist while she tells me my cortisol levels are high (as if I wasn’t fully aware), breathing into a paper bag to prevent hyperventilation, and the list goes on.

If you’re wondering why I’m comparing my cortisol levels to hot chocolate, my point is this: winter break and exam week should be placed on two completely separate horizons, light years and galaxies apart from each other.

After exams, students are tired and lethargic – they seek some time away from school in order to rejuvenate their desire to learn. It’s extraordinarily difficult for students to enjoy winter break when exams are on their minds, and it’s equally as grueling to remain concentrated when “our brains are mush,” described senior Kate Citron.

By administering exams before winter break, the student body will feel revived and encouraged to bring forth their new academic expeditions and conquer them accordingly. Students will return from a well-deserved break not only insight of a new finish line, but armed with confidence, enthusiasm, and motivation, they will strive to surpass it.