Reading this headline, I imagine you probably had to do a double-take. How could any finals possibly be better or worse than any others? They are all unnecessarily stressful, difficult, and worth a huge percentage of your final grade, not to mention the suspense of waiting for those grades to roll in whenever your professor decides to post them.
So, how is it that the finals that we take at the end of the standard college fall semester seem so much better, in my humble opinion than the finals which end the spring semester? Well, I'm glad you asked.
First, winter finals have the beauty and joy of the holidays to keep you going when you feel like giving up. Even when you're still awake at 4:30 AM cramming for a test you have at 9 AM, you can remember that the pain will be over in a matter of days, and you'll soon be at home by your Christmas tree wondering what surprises might be underneath it. Even if you don't celebrate, you can still appreciate the fact that everyone is a little bit more festive and jolly towards the end of December. That is definitely a thought to hold onto as you stand in the mile-long line at the coffee shop, prepare for that last presentation, or put the finishing touches on the term paper you wrote the night before.
There's also the fact that spring finals should really be called summer finals, because at least here in Virginia, early May can sometimes be just as hot and oppressive as early August. While hot weather is enjoyable by the side of a pool or on the seashore, at school it seems reminiscent of the fiery pit of Hades that you feel like you've entered while you are taking finals. Taking a test that you're unprepared for is ten times worse when you're sweating uncontrollably and your shorts aren't long enough to protect your thighs from sticking to the chair. And even if the weather is nice, you can hardly enjoy it when you're chained to your desk studying or stuck in a library finishing a paper.
Winter finals can be a bit chilly sometimes, but at least the cold weather helps you focus. And you have an excuse to wrap yourself in a cozy sweater, slip on some warm socks, and make a cup of comforting hot tea as you study.
In addition to looking forward to the holidays, and to a restful break of sitting on your couch at home wrapped in blankets, winter finals have the added benefit of not ending with permanent good-byes. In the spring, the majority of college students in their fourth year will graduate, meaning that they won't be back in dorms or classes with you when fall comes around again. They may even end up on the other side of the country for their new job, and while you might get to go visit them in their exotic new digs, you probably won't get to see them as often as you did when you sat next to each other in politics lecture.
So during spring finals, there is an additional pressure to see everyone one more time, because who knows the next time you'll be able to hang out? As much as we hate to admit it, Winter Break is finite, and luckily this means that we'll see our friends again in the New Year. Even though some friends might graduate in the winter, or might bid you farewell before they leave to study abroad in the spring, be thankful that most of your winter good-byes are only temporary.
The reality is, finals suck, no matter when you're taking them. Winter finals may be slightly less awful because of all you have to look forward to, but you still have to survive them first. The good news is...you will! No matter how rough the finals outlook is right now, this too shall pass. Soon, you'll be looking back with the Ghost of Finals Past and wondering why you were ever so stressed. But until that day comes, best of luck, stay strong, and keep moving forward!