The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Senior Finals Are More Effective for Students Than Not

Balancing academics, sports, extracurriculars and the burden of writing college applications, first-semester seniors are among the hardest working groups on campus.

It is no wonder, then, that many seniors grumble and gripe about winter finals, which many seniors see as another task on a seemingly-endless heap.
“During senior year it is pretty hard to [find time to study for] finals first semester, due to college apps and all,” senior Mohan Avula said. “We’ve got a lot of private college applications due just a week after finals ends. I really want to just focus on my college apps.”

With tensions already running so high and many nerves already smoldering, the debate about removing senior winter finals has again picked up steam among the student body. Despite these factors, senior finals, though they require some adjustment, should still be retained in the course curriculum.

“Why are seniors any different from sophomores or juniors?” math teacher Carol Evans said. “I can understand [teachers] going easy on freshman, who haven’t acclimated to the concept of weighted finals, but seniors should be well experienced and have an advantage [in test-taking]. I certainly hope that these seniors, who are moving to an environment where finals are super important, have learned their lesson about finals. Failing a final in college is the equivalent of failing the class.”

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However, despite what appears to be a strong case for winter finals, Harker is an example of a nearby school that doesn’t offer senior finals.
“Seniors at Harker, instead of being required to endure the stress of finals as well as writing college applications, receive the finals week off to instead improve and finish their college applications,” junior Mary Liu, a transfer student from Harker, said. “I believe it’s an effective system to relieve some of the burdens senior students face.”

Harker’s system, which completely eliminates senior finals, relieves lots of stress from the student body. It also helps seniors concentrate more on college applications, and helps seniors stay less stressed going into the holiday season.
Despite obvious surface benefits, changing to match Harker’s elimination of senior finals would be a drastic culture change for LAHS, and might in fact negatively impact many more students than it would help.

“I believe that although the current system may have its flaws, it still offers more benefits [over the other possible alternative],” Senior Class President John Lee said. “Although the timing may not be the best for certain people, I believe that the timing could be much worse.”
Despite their grumbling, most seniors still agree that, while tedious, senior finals are still necessary.

“Although historically finals have only hurt my grades, I do think we still need to them in order to give some people hope that they have a chance to raise their semester grades,” Mohan said. “I admit that many times it might just be a pipe-dream for some of us, but it’s still useful to have that last chance.”

Without finals, many students would not be able to show improvement over the semester. Students would not be able to demonstrate their ability to learn from past mistakes, and every chapter test would effectively become a one-time assessment of material that will never be tested again, a counterintuitive idea since learning encompasses gaining a cumulative understanding of the material.

In short, by removing winter finals, the stress caused by the finals would just be spread over all the other assessments of the school year, leaving seniors just as stressed as they are now, and also harming those who rely on finals as their last chance to boost their grades.
In the end, however, it’s really not the winter finals themselves that cause seniors stress; it’s the timing of the winter finals.

“About handling Marching Band, choir, running clubs, sports and other extracurriculars first semester senior year, I don’t believe that’s an excuse for students to have an easier time with grades, because they can control their extracurricular workload,” senior Willem Van Eck said.
When asked about his opinion on winter senior finals, however, he noted with dismay the timing of this year’s finals.

“I don’t necessarily protest the existence of first semester finals because nothing about being a senior exempts us from finals,” Willem said. “However, I do protest how this year, finals week and the studying period beforehand occurs immediately after Early Action and Early Decision letters come back from colleges; students who were either rejected or deferred from their top choice schools may be in emotional wrecks, or have a momentary slump as a result which could cause them to do much worse than normal on a final exam. [Meanwhile], students accepted early may have a period of jubilation where they underestimate the importance of these exams, which may in extreme cases cause a drop in grades that could cause them to be rescinded. I believe that administering final exams during such an emotionally unsettling point in some senior’s lives is a bad choice.”

In conclusion, the school’s winter finals remain an important practice for college-bound seniors, although their timing might be reconsidered to alleviate the stress that accompanies being a first semester senior. Staggering the finals or decreasing their point worth for students already maintaining A’s could alleviate some of their stress, but that remains at the hands and discretion of department coordinators.

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