Ruminations on finals

Ah, exam week. Worried? Unprepared? Rundown? Procrastinating? Can’t wait to find out what your grades are? You’re not alone. Despite not having Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or other social media, Vassar students from years past had their own outlets for recording their feelings about this most stressful time of the year. Lest you think venting about exams is something new, here are some excerpts from the Vassar Digital Library’s collection of student diaries and letters.

Library students studying ca 1901-1904

Library students studying ca 1901-1904

1865: Christine Ladd diary entry

We have had private examinations this week, which have done a good deal to take down my self conceit.  They have been demonstrative proof that impressions made on my mind have no more durability than if a seal plunged into the water.  … I am so inconceivably illogical.  It is impossible for me to apprehend the relations of things.  Education of such mental imbecility is a gross mistake.

1870: Ellen Adee diary entry

The revel of examinations is done and two days worry and cramming tell their tale in exhaustion mentily and bodily.  But that chapel essay could be postponed no longer, and what Nature could not do, green tea must.  It did help this morning I am sure, but this evening every muscle and nerve in my body seem about to give out.

ph.f 3.21 Main Building Library ca 1880

Main Building Library ca 1880

1871: Bertha Keffer diary entry

I wish it were the June examination instead of February.  I wish the Faculty had to be examined before a lot of people twice a year when we are.  They would soon do away with all such botherations if they came home to themselves.

1872: Frances Bromley diary entry

Examination days tire me more than almost any others. It’s a different kind of tired.


Student at desk in dorm, n.d.

Student at desk in dorm, n.d.

1872: Letter from Julia Pease to her mother

The examinations come off this week, Thursday and Friday. I dread them a good deal for I am not nearly as good a scholar as I was last year. It sometimes seems that I have grown most miserably stupid, for It is with the greatest difficulty that I can learn my lessons at all, and when I have learned them I cannot remember them long. Then, I think my teachers are none of them very good.

1896: Letter from Adelaide Mansfield to her mother

A hard week is over and a comparatively easy week is before as. Our exams, were harder than usual, and also harder to prepare for. Our exam, in Thucydides was the worst. Miss Leach gave us for the first question a passage to translate, which was the very hardest passage in the book. Some of the girls had just reviewed It, but a good many – including myself – had not looked at it since we had it about two months ago.

1915: Helen Hartley Pease Diary

Rained all day. Horrid walking. No flunk notes. Passed all my exams. Slept two hours in P.M. Didn’t go to new presidents’ reception for the weather. Only 5 nuts went. Retired early.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *