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Combatting Self-Doubt During Finals

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

With the semester coming to a close, it is common for many of us students to begin to panic as our courses reach their culminations. As December creeps closer, we begin to receive all the marks from our previous assignments and midterms, and inevitably start calculating the grades needed to achieve the highest possible marks in our courses. Sometimes, we find that in order to achieve the bare minimum of an A- or B+ in a course, we would need to achieve grades on the final exam or assignment that are, or seem to be, unattainable, resulting in lowered expectations of the success we can achieve. I have found myself so many times having these conflicting thoughts of whether to lower my expectations for the outcome of a course or to aim for what seems to be an entirely unattainable goal. All this can lead to me questioning my academic ability.

While these feelings of self-doubt are normal among the majority of university students, they can be crippling for some of us when facing extreme pressure to succeed in our academics. This pressure can stem from a variety of sources and goals, whether it be to get the same (or higher) grades as our peers, to achieve the GPAs needed to get into prestigious graduate programs, or even to maintain certain GPAs that conform to our own standards of success. In an environment like Queen’s, where academic competition is abundant among many students, it is so easy to get lost in the struggle to reach goals that could be frankly unreasonable. I’ve found myself in this position at Queen’s a few times. I’ve felt like I wasn’t good enough to be here, and that my goals were too far out of my reach.

At times when the self-doubt surrounding exams (or any part of the year, for that matter) feels a little too overwhelming, it’s important to take a step back and to consider everything that brought you to where we are now. Everyone here experiencing that exam-season panic was accepted to Queen’s for a reason; we all have something to offer, and we all have the potential to achieve what we want to. It can also help to think about achievements you have earned while at Queen’s already. These can be seemingly simple, like a paper you got a really good mark on or the cultivation of the perfect study routine that helps you maximize productivity, or larger-scale achievements, like getting accepted to go on an exchange or getting an internship within your program. Looking back on your own achievements will not only help to combat the self-doubt you may face during exam season, but will also help you regain your self-confidence to succeed in your academics.

It can also be so beneficial to embrace the self-doubt that comes with exam season. When it begins to feel impossible to succeed on the last few assignments or exams you have for the semester, use this doubt as a means to prove yourself wrong. The thoughts “I won’t be able to get the grade I want” or “I won’t be able to write a good enough final paper” can be great motivators for you to prove yourself wrong. Just remember, you’re not alone in these feelings. Take a deep breath, do your best, and remember that you are here for a reason.

Cassidy McMackon is a fourth year philosophy student at Queen's University, and Vice President of the Her Campus Queen's U chapter. She loves coffee, bubble baths, and can most often be found in Douglas Library or Balzac's coffee shop with her nose in a book.