As the end of classes rapidly approaches and the promise of summer begins to peek its head over the horizon, Pitt students have one final demon to deal with before they can breathe a collective sigh of relief — finals week.
Stretching in the formless expanse of time between the last sessions of the semester and graduation the next Sunday is finals week, the traditionally terrible time of year when college kids get red eyes staying up all hours of the night under harsh library lights, cramming for exams. But for all of finals week’s supposed horribleness, we can’t help but wonder — why aren’t professors using that time to give us our tests?
In spite of tradition and the week’s name itself, a substantial number of professors decide to conclude their courses during the 15th week of instruction, requiring students to take exams, submit final work and catch up on content before the two-day reading period for finals even begins. But while educators and administrators might think they’re doing us a favor by giving us our exams early, they have exactly the opposite effect.
One of the most obvious drawbacks of declining to use finals week for its express purpose is the fact that finals given earlier severely interfere with other parts of students’ lives that don’t end until classes do. Student workers (including those of us here at The Pitt News) don’t typically get off work until finals week actually starts. When professors put exams and final assignments too early, we end up trying to cram both work and extra school into one week and sitting idle during finals week, neither working nor studying. And because other professors correctly utilize finals week, most students are stranded on campus that week, meaning giving finals early essentially gives students two finals weeks.
We might have our own biases about how finals get shifted one week earlier than they would otherwise be, but it’s not just student workers who are affected by this phenomenon. Student performers typically have their end-of-year performances this week as well, and requiring them to stay up studying late nights after curtain calls feels willfully cruel.
The weekend between the last week of classes and finals week used to be dedicated to reading, studying in the library and putting the finishing touches on final papers and projects due that Monday. But with the bizarre, senseless distribution of tests and due dates throughout the two weeks before graduation, you can’t really blame students who feel they have to take a break from the constant stress and drink a bit much in the final weeks of the semester. This might not be the case if professors actually used finals week for what it was meant to do.
Really, one of the only groups of people not negatively affected by final examination spillover into the last week of the semester is students involved in natural science and engineering fields. The rest of the University should take note and not try to wrap up their courses early.
This isn’t one of those problems that’s hard to solve — it wouldn’t be too difficult at all to move final exams and due dates one week later. That’s literally the point.