Every year, December haunts me. It’s not because “Winter is coming,” or because of seasonal depression, and it’s not even the ghost of Christmas past, no; it’s because of final exams, the terrifying tests upon which my entire future hangs in the balance. If I do poorly on my finals, I won’t be able to get into Montana Tech, and I’ll never break into the retail industry. On the other hand, if I study nonstop for the next 24 hours with no breaks, even for water, I’ll be sure to get my acceptance letter and matriculate in Big SkyCountry.Or, at least, that’s how I used to feel. This year, we don’t have final exams, we’ve got summative assessments. Boy, it feels like all the weight has just melted right off my shoulders. Likewise, my friends can look forward to having prestigious post-secondary experiences with the South Dakota Institute of Agriculture and the U.S. Armed Forces (shoutout to Sergeant Garza!).

At Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, I visited my grandparents in Keokuk, Iowa. My dad loves to brag about my achievements, so when he realized my grades weren’t up to scratch, he pulled me aside. “Son, if your grades don’t improve by Christmas, you’ll be spending the holidays down in Des Moines. See to it that you earn A+ or better on all of your finals, or no soup for you.” Jokes on him, I don’t have finals this year, I have summative assessments. Try starving me now, Carl.

The anxiety I used to get from finals was terrible. I’d be forcing myself to throw up in the bathroom before school, the remnants of my Panda Express in the sink (remarkably, it looked exactly the same). Now, with only summative assessments to worry about, I’m not even the slightest bit nervous. Thank you, Principal Anderson, for saving me from bulimia.

You know, I’ve always felt the North Shore culture has pushed a warped definition of success on me. My self-worth shouldn’t be tied to a GPA, right? I think the change of language surrounding final exams marks a real paradigm shift, undoing the last 16 years of inculcating the belief that I can only succeed as an engineer, doctor, or lawyer into me. Boy, I sure do have a growth mindset now. In addition, with all the free time I have, not needing to study for finals, I can prepare for the newly announced semi-yearly punitive cumulative examinations. These are the real important tests. I hear that, if you don’t do well on them, it’s not just a matter of affecting your future; your very soul is damned with a Cor lower. That, and you can’t check out of study hall to go to the library

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