Vindicating April

Why — and how — you should love the month of finals.

by Amelia Wallworth

I love April. The sun sets later, the temperature slowly inches its way above zero, and the birds begin singing again. Sometimes, if it’s an especially lucky year, a few flowers will even sprout up along the muddy sidewalks. But being in university can make it difficult to enjoy April. In fact, it’s arguably the month we, as students, dread the most. After working away for two terms, it’s easy to feel like we will never summit the mountain of deadlines ahead of us. We’ve been plugging away for seven months and then, to top it all off, we’re expected to complete the biggest assignments and exams of the term. Put simply, we’re just tired. No wonder we don’t like April!

But I think we owe April a little more appreciation. So while I can’t get rid of finals season, I can offer up some tips on how to make it a little less painful. And hopefully, by doing so, I can draw some more supporters to my April fan club.

Don’t be too hard on yourself:

As students, the academic expectations placed on us are intense. Feeling burnt out and unmotivated is a normal and valid reaction. It’s easy to slip into a self-blaming mindset — to tell ourselves that it’s our fault for feeling this way, that if we just “tried harder” we could get out of the rut. But it’s not that easy. We can’t just flip a switch and regain our academic motivation. Burnout is largely caused by external situational factors, not internal will-power. The fact that the vast majority of students feel exhausted and unmotivated is testament to this. So don’t be too hard on yourself. And while this advice likely won’t make you feel any more motivated, it will hopefully at least take a bit of weight off your shoulders.

Look for inspiration:

At the end of the day, there is a reason why you’re enrolled in the courses you’re in. Maybe it’s a degree requirement or you’re interested in the course content. Either way, there is a reason somewhere in there. That being said, it’s still hard to draw motivation from that alone. I’ve certainly been in courses where I’m genuinely fascinated by the content but, when it comes to assignments, it still feels like a chore to finish them. When this happens, I try to remind myself that there is a silver lining to a lot of the work I do. No matter how tiring or intimidating it may feel, it’s usually about something interesting. So if you can dig deep and find a little touch of inspiration, it can help a lot.

Do other things, like seriously:

There is a tendency among students, especially at U of T, to let school overshadow other parts of life. During finals season, many of us cut back on sleep and see friends less. We withdraw from our hobbies, even little activities like going on a walk or reading a book. It makes sense — when we take a break to do something non-academic we feel guilty and stressed, like we’re not being productive enough. But, in reality, leaning into the non-academic parts of your life will actually make you more productive. It’s impossible to study — or, at least to study well — for hour after hour. Leaning into the non-academic parts of your life will likely make academics easier in the long run. I promise you, a walk or an extra hour of sleep will not jeopardize your GPA. In all likelihood, it will instead make it better through your enhanced health state.

I think the underlying sentiment which ties all of these ideas together is comforting: school isn’t the end-all-be-all. Whenever I get stressed or worried, I take a step back and ask myself “if worst comes to worst, how long will it take for you to move on after that?” The answer tends to be a pretty short period of time, maybe a few weeks or months. And, here’s the thing: rarely does it ever go to the worst-case-scenario.

So, as you prepare to square up against April, try taking a step back and reminding yourself that finals season is temporary. And maybe, just maybe, give the month a chance to show you its colours. It could end up being a new favourite.

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