The last weeks of the semester feature exams and assignments that increase academic stress. Students and professors share their opinions on finals-related tensions and the steps Rutgers can take to address them.
This year, final exams begin on Friday and end on December 23, according to Rutgers’ academic calendar. This week-long stretch impacts students in different ways, with some having writing-intensive assignments and others completing timed in-person exams.
Hamyah Jenkins, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she has difficulty managing a work-life balance while in college.
Jenkins, who is majoring in English, said her stress levels escalate during midterm and finals season, with most of her work being essay-based.
"(During midterms season,) I get multiple essays due at once for each of my classes," she said. "Finals are the same. I have a bunch of essays due instead of actual walk-in finals."
Jenkins said reducing the number of essays or readings in a given week would help her alleviate stress, as would canceling classes. Regardless of whether cancellations are to give students a break or for personal reasons, it gives students time to unwind.
Such tools are used by professors like Rina Bliss, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. She said during exam weeks, she does not require students to attend class. Instead, class time can be used to study given that multiple classes conduct exams in those weeks.
"You can assume that (students are) completely overburdened at that time," Bliss said. "To have them have to jump through some other hoops in addition to the exams is just too much, so I definitely give them the time off."
Adam Grele, a School of Arts and Science senior, said the stress he experiences is multifaceted. He said he is optimistic about reducing this stress and thinks the University bolstering existing student support networks would aid students during such times.
"It's hard to say (why the time is so stressful) because you could say it's too many assignments or the professors, but the issue with that is that each class is individual," he said. "So there's no real obligation that a professor has to take into account their students' other classes. But that raises the argument of if they should care."
Mark Beal, an assistant professor of professional practice in the Department of Communication, said students' stress is not limited to exams. Being a student means balancing several classes, tasks and sometimes internships or jobs which can all contribute to immense stress.
"Undergraduate students are so multi-dimensional. They are not one-dimensional. They are not just students," Beal said. "(Being) students is just one of many things they're doing over the course of seven days of the week. And all of those things combined require lots of time management and responding to a lot of requests and deadlines."
He said he personally seeks to help students from the beginning of each semester by acknowledging the struggles students face and their multimodal lifestyles. As an instructor, he plans out his course and displays all necessary work on Canvas from the start, allowing students to plan ahead.
Beal said he also sends weekly previews and recaps so students can understand course material and remain focused even if absent from class. He said students respect this method of instruction throughout the entire semester.
Bliss spoke about the University’s existing services and said she has heard some of the student-wellness services on campus are short-handed, which complicates the support students receive during stressful times.
She said she appreciates Rutgers' work to revisit policies and refine its services regularly, but staff members can also facilitate conversations with their students about their stress.
"I feel like a lot of times students are afraid to share how they're feeling, and they're so stressed, but they feel like they won't be listened to and that their needs aren't valid," Bliss said. "I just hope that faculty, administrators, staff, all of us on that end of it, will take that into account as (finals begin)."