We’re nearing mid-semester (well sorta), and there’s something I always notice about this time of year. Well, I notice the situations that always pop up at this time of year; assessments starting to pile up, a mountain of readings you haven’t even looked at, an exam around the corner, and the night that you were supposed to be studying you ended up getting drunk with a friend down the hallway. Let’s not forget the work that pays for your alcohol, the extended family that you go out to dinner with, and that new society that you just have to join.
Finally, the realisation of uni is beginning to set in. Freshers are freaking out thinking, ‘What if I fail?!’ Third years Comm are going through their quarter-life crisis of, ‘What the hell is this degree going to do for me?’ Meanwhile the dam second years are happily floating in limbo because they now have the scheduling down and the question of ‘what if’ is far off on the blurred horizon. However there is something that first, second, third year (and beyond) students all have in common, and it always starts to emerge around this time of semester.
You can see students start to migrate into groups. Their eyes have rings and the standard takeaway coffee cup is clutched tightly in a slightly shaking hand, and the girls’ hair are up in buns to hide the fact that they skipped their morning shower. Most telling are the crumpled up pieces of paper that they are constantly eyeing off; these are their bibles.
Because this is exam time. This is assessment time. This is the time that procrastinators rise, and the over-achievers pull all-nighters. Unfortunately, however, this is also the time of put-downs and self-doubt.
Let me explain (and also let me preface this by saying that I am extremely guilty of doing this myself).
We all get in little circles outside our classrooms, or we sit in our tutorial cliques and discuss, ‘Hey, how’d your assessment go?’
‘Awful, I had no idea what I was doing! You?’
‘Same. Oh my gosh, we are totally going to fail.’
OR maybe the conversation goes a little like this: ‘I am so not ready for this exam.’
‘Me neither, I did not study at all.’
‘Man, I am not looking forward to this.’
And my absolute personal favourite is the slightly pretentious putdown: ‘I used over 25 (billion) references, do you think that will be enough?’
But come on guys! Let’s break through all the facades.
We are intelligent, capable, and frikin’ awesome people! Let’s face it: we wouldn’t be studying at university if we weren’t. We all study, we all do the best we can and we all rely on others in our class to reassure us of our own intelligence. We play down our strengths so that someone will remind us of greatness. We pretend that we didn’t study enough so that someone will assure us that everything will be fine. We put ourselves down so that Distinction tastes even better.
And I guess that’s fine to a degree – a lot people use this method to cope with the stress of assessments. But wouldn’t self-confidence play better on our long-term psyche? I would’ve thought that telling ourselves, ‘Yes, we have studied enough’ and, ‘Yes, that essay was well thought out,’ is a more effective way to endure the challenges of uni. We all need to realise that we are not going to fail. We’ve done the work, we’ve read the research and the outcome is going to reflect that.
So I’ve set myself a little goal: don’t join the assignment hating, mark comparing, and self-doubt that comes with assessment time. Remind yourself of the effort you’ve put in and realise, you don’t need convincing. You’ve got everything under control. You don’t need me, or anyone else, telling you how great you and your work is.
By Clare Aston