Ways to survive exam time

Community Opinion & Analysis Dec 7, 2018 at 7:17 pm

Book-Filipinos-in-CanadaDear Kuya Allos

Naku, it’s exam time and I’m having trouble concentrating. I still have essays that are overdue and three exams! I think I lost track of time because for a month or so there was not many assignment and then all the deadlines just came up! I am doubting my decision to go to university, I don’t think I can do it. On top of that I’m working four days a week this holiday season at the mall. I think I need Help!!! Alexis, 19

Dear Alexis,

Naku talaga! Exam time is a stressful time for many students. Everyone I know is freaking out like you. Up until my Masters degree, I still had way many overdue assignments and would panic at the end of the semester.

Many young immigrant students have a lot more going on in their lives and have a lot less resources than other students in university. Many students who do well in university do not have to work while in school, have money to pay for tutors, and the best of all, actually still have time to relax and pursue extra-curricular activities. For Filipinx students, that is not the case. I always worked while in school and spent a lot of time doing community organizing because it was important to me.

In my experience, the education system here is not designed to make schooling accessible for all. As schools, both K12 to post-secondary, are becoming more privatized and expensive and the competition gets more intense. Undergraduate degrees in university for example are structured to push students to drop-out each year! With increasing tuition fees, cost of living, winter, short daylight, and just life getting harder and harder in general, no wonder students are having a hard time right now.

But don’t fret! To be fair, I was an undergrad drop-out but I was able to get into a Masters program a few years later. It was hard, and failed a couple of courses (sorry, mom) but I finished it. I did have to restructure my life and pick up particular skills. But first, I had to reduce my hours at work.

The most important skill I had to learn was to have a realistic expectation about my own capacity – about what I can or cannot do.

For example, maybe you have written a 5-page essay in 2 hours last year, but that doesn’t mean that now you can write three essays in six hours! Look at what you need to do for the next few weeks and chart it out in a calendar. I hope you have an agenda, a notebook ideally, not on your phone.

Now the next skill to develop is talk to be able to talk to your teachers and any related school support staff. You can email your professor and be honest about your situation. Ask for deadline extensions or modified course load. For example, instead of five 2-page essays, maybe one 8-page essay in one topic is more manageable.

If you are registered with Student Accessibility Services, talk to your counselor and ask what your options are. If you are not registered and curious about it, set an appointment with them to help you determine if you would benefit from accessibility services.
If nothing works and you think you will fail or get a low mark, speak to your registrar and discuss your options. There are different options that they can help you petition for, such as late withdrawals and super extended deadlines (some can get a few months to hand in late assignments for health-related, care obligations, etc).

Also, if you don’t think you can work many shifts while you’re catching up on school work, speak with your manager about scheduling. Unfortunately, I know managers penalize workers by not giving them any shifts once the holiday season is over, so it can be hard to say no. Do you need the money? Talk to your family if they are expecting you to contribute to the finances. Maybe you need to look for another job, maybe find something in the university? If you really have to take all the shifts, then talk to your school registrar. They can help you apply for emergency bursaries and connect you to the school career centre.

Good luck on your exams! You can do it! At the end, remember that your grade does not determine who you are! Dramatic, but true. Sige, aral na.

Ingat,
Kuya Allos

If you are a Filipinx youth and you have any questions about mental health, sexual health, gender identity, school, and even employment, write to kuya.allos@gmail.com and I will try my best to answer on the next issue of The Philippine Reporter!
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Allos Abis was one of the coordinators of the Centre for Women and Trans People at the University of Toronto and worked as a Settlement Worker in Schools serving the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board. He is currently a volunteer at the Migrant Resource Centre Canada (MRCC).