What to do now that exams are over
It’s finally over.
You’ve put down the pen. You’ve closed the book. Your sweet, elderly supervisor, Gladys, has collected up the last of your exam papers and given the room permission to leave. You’re free.
While immediate euphoria is usually our default condition after exams, often this feeling gives way to a unique period of intense uncertainty (that is, once the initial novelty of waking up at 12pm every day wears off).
Whether deciding what to do with your life, waiting to find out if you got into a particular course or simply looking for something to occupy your time, we all seem to be left with the same question: What next?
Thankfully, there are certain things you can do over the break to occupy yourself, find direction and keep the ball rolling. Summer is an awesome window to mentally reset, establish your goals, give yourself a break and seek out future opportunities. Below, we break them down in easy steps, so that you don’t have to do any more work than you already have. Which, if you’ve been following our advice for a while now, was a lot. Obviously.
Holidays are like an overnight charge for your iPhone, except on your brain. Whatever you’re doing these holidays, you need to take the time out of your busy life to de-stress, and get back to the person you were before you were spending ungodly hours at the library and forgetting how to socialise.
If that means spending 3 straight days watching Netflix and binging on Burger King – that’s okay. In moderation. After a while, we’d recommend washing your sheets, getting up, getting outside and socialising.
Being outdoors can do wonders for your mood and general wellbeing. Going for a hike, stroll or camping trip will get you back in touch with the world around you, and help you to forget about the unforgiving library walls you’ve been trapped in for so long.
Swim in the ocean. Listen to your favourite album. Plan a roadie. Take the bus to a new place. Chat to a stranger at the bus stop. Eat a real-fruit ice-cream, and enjoy it. Do everything you were dreaming of while trying to wrap your head around quadratic equations.
Little known secret: your high-school holidays are probably going to be the easiest ones of your life. They’re the sweet spot of freedom before the tsunami of adult responsibilities hits once you leave high school. Make the most of them, and then dive into next year’s workload – whatever that may be – with a renewed sense of zeal. U rock. Go u.
Reflect, and then forget
No matter how you’re going to fill your time these holidays, any energy spent worrying about your results is a waste of your precious summer hours. The ink has dried. The exams are done. The papers are submitted. Gladys has left the building.
If you have major regrets or worries, I’d encourage you to think about things you wish you’d done differently, write them down somewhere, and hold onto it for next year. Then, forget about it until you need to start studying again (hopefully a bit earlier this time).
Mentally revisiting that answer that you probably got wrong is not going to change your answer. It’s just going to ruin your holiday. You’ve played your cards, and the rest is up to the NZQA gods.
If you need to, do something ritualistic to really rid yourself of any lingering exam-stress. Burn your notes in a bonfire with your friends. Jump off a wharf in your school uniform. Clear up your laptop desktop and trash everything you don’t need any longer. Let go, and be free, young one.
And when results do roll around on that fateful day in January, make sure to remember that exams aren’t everything. Celebrate your successes, and learn from your misgivings.
The test doesn’t stop as soon as you close your exam booklet – it spans your entire handling of exams – from your preparation and performance, to your attitude of response and your actions from there. Treat it as such and you’ll have a much breezier education all around. Deep.
Do a passion project
You know really successful young people that you’re super jealous of? Like Willow Smith or Millie Bobby-Brown? They’re not just famous because they’re super rich and had the funds to cultivate an audience (even though that probs helped).
They’re famous because they found a passion when they were young enough – and worked hard at it. So hard that when they grew up, even a few years later, their talents were impressive enough to inspire awe in millions of listeners and viewers across the world.
If you don’t have an immediate passion which comes to mind, ask yourself the following questions:
What am I naturally good at?
What do I enjoy?
What could I read 50 books about and not get bored?
What makes me happy?
If I could do anything in the world for the rest of my life, what would it be?
Beginning to think about these things can help you to find out where your strongest potential lies. If you want to be a film director, get some friends together and shoot an amateur short film over the holidays. If your passion is cooking, sign up for some classes and commit to making at least one meal per day – or make your own amateur recipe book. If you love science, go to the library and pick 10 different books that spark your interest, and finish them by the time school comes around.
The difference between people with dreams and people whose dreams come true isn’t any mystical outside force or circumstance. It’s action.
Time is on your side. Doing a passion project will mean you’ll stand out from the crowd when it comes to your career, you’ll learn a wealth of transferable skills, you’ll spend your summer productively, you’ll get to know yourself, and you’ll probably nourish your soul in the process.
Education of any kind, no matter what it “does” for you job-wise, is valuable. Even though pursuing a passion might seem like fruitless labour for now, I promise that you’ll thank yourself later on.
For now, the world is your oyster.
Learn a new skill
If you’re still not sure what your passion is – try something new.
Mastering a new skill has benefits that go way beyond the actual skill learned. It’ll help you to learn things quicker, improve your performance and adaptability to other activities and tasks, and even help to stave off dementia.
It’ll give you access to new and different opportunities and experiences, keep your mind sharp over the break, and boost your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Most of all, it’ll make you an all around more interesting person.
I know you’re sick of us harping on about the value of learning, but we’re going to do it anyway. Learning across our lives is critical for staying up to date in our rapidly changing world. When we stop learning things, we can get stagnant and can actually move backwards.
But learning doesn’t have to involve books! It can be fun things! Like producing your own music – or Karate!
You could learn to DJ, pick up photography, make pottery, learn to code, learn a language, learn a musical instrument, start Tai Chi – whatever! Taking courses is a great way to develop new skills. Otherwise, the Internet has millions of free online tutorials that mean you can pretty much learn anything you please from the comfort of your own room.
Your horizons have never been wider.