Finals are the pinnacle of college stress, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded that fact.
The pandemic has led to a variety of stressful situations for many students, and navigating online learning has posed challenges for students and faculty alike. Finals week is more difficult than ever.
Next semester, many students will continue to take their classes partly or fully online, and the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States is steadily increasing. The spring semester will likely bring many of the same problems.
In order to help with students’ well-being, UT should condense and reorganize the finals period in the spring to give students more time to prepare in advance. UT should implement a week where there are no examinations or major assignments due before the start of finals week.
Undeclared freshman Ashley Nicol Calar Yude spoke with me about how difficult it is to juggle her remote academic responsibilities as we move into finals season.
“It's been stressful trying to schedule everything,” Yude said.
UT has made little effort to improve students' finals experience considering the extenuating circumstances.
Currently, both the fall and spring finals schedules provide students just two days off before final exams start. There are no restrictions on midterms or other projects leading up to finals. So, technically, students could have exams or other major assignments due on Monday and finals on Thursday, just three days later.
At UT, the finals schedule is predetermined by class time. Professors don’t have jurisdiction over when their finals will take place, and it is different for every section within the same class.
Moving forward, UT should consider the effects the pandemic and online learning have had on students and implement a week of dead days before spring finals.
Considering the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic and all its hectic consequences, students who have finals at the first available opportunity don’t have enough time to prepare.
Yude said she would like to see UT better accommodate its students.
“I’d prefer if we didn’t have any classes the week before finals so we could prepare,” Yude said.
In contrast to UT’s schedule, Texas Tech has a period of no examinations (except for makeup exams or scheduled lab exams) that starts before Thanksgiving break on Nov. 24 and extends until the start of finals on Dec. 4.
“Our finals schedule is kind of weird,” Yude said. “I don’t really get that we are learning new things right before the tests.”
Like Tech, UT should have a week without tests after Thanksgiving, followed by the immediate start of finals.
Furthermore, there is no need to continue to drag out the semester beyond Thanksgiving break. For example, Texas A&M’s finals started on Dec. 1.
“The University is always looking at opportunities to optimize the academic calendar, including the final exam schedule,” Kathleen Harrison, the communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said in an email. “Our focus is on supporting students and their success, which includes having an academic calendar and finals schedule that meets their needs.”
Adding an extra week of off days before finals would do just that.
Looking ahead, UT should reorganize the spring finals schedule. Streamlining the finals schedule would accommodate students whose remote learning has left them feeling overwhelmed and burnt out at the end of the semester, and prioritizing students’ well-being will set a beneficial precedent for future generations of UT students.
Margaret Butler is an undeclared freshman from Austin, Texas.