Six academic affirmations to aid you through AP season


Wren Bulawin

Positive affirmations, while not a cure-all solution to exam stress, can help students get into the right mindset before and during the big day. Repeating these mantras to yourself can not only boost your mood and confidence, but may help you manifest your best self on exam day!

Wren Bulawin, Open Canvas Manager, Assistant Features Editor

AP exams and finals are right on the horizon! Exam season can be a troubling time for students, riddled with feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and anxiety. It can be easy to let yourself fall into these negative cycles during the last week of cram season, but doing so will only lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy that you don’t want to manifest. 

It may seem difficult at first, but the first step out of a deep, dark ditch of despair is to light a tiny flame of hope; however, you must make the conscious effort to get out of that headspace. And although it might sound a bit silly and dumb, and you may have heard it thousands of times, self-affirmations do help keep that flame going.

So turn those negative, self-sabotaging thoughts around and shine a more positive light on them with these six academic affirmations:


1. “I am making progress, no matter how small.”

During exam season, students tend to be so wrapped up in what they’re getting wrong during their studies that they forget how far they’ve really come. It may feel as though each study session has led to zero progress or improvement, leading to feelings of worthlessness and defeat. But each person grows at their own pace, and even the smallest bit of improvement—from relearning a new topic to simply getting one more question right than yesterday—is still progress. Even if, in the moment, it may feel like you’ve learned nothing, remember that you know more now compared to the beginning of the year. So step back, breathe, and be proud of your progress—even if nobody else will see it.


2. “I choose to take the results of this exam as a learning experience.”

Seeing exam scores as a win-lose situation will only do more harm than good. After all, for every good grade achieved, there is always someone scoring higher, so comparisons will only knock you down and leave you demotivated. Rather, turn this mindset around and see these scores as a learning experience: what have I done well to prepare for this? What subjects or study habits do I still need to work on? And, at the end of it all, how can I better myself for the future? Reevaluate your performance not through a critical, self-deprecating lens, but rather as a lesson to grow from. 


3. “My score does not define my smarts. How I perform today does not accurately reflect what I truly know.”

Despite what teachers like to tell their students, standardized exams aren’t always the best show of knowledge. Most of the time, they tend to only measure what a student can regurgitate or apply on a certain day, at a certain time, under a certain amount of pressure and circumstances. Many confounding variables outside of studying go into test performance—breakfast, mood, room ambience, health, hours of sleep—and some of them are out of the average student’s control. So remember that, as long as you did your best, your score from that specific moment does not define how smart you are. You will always be more intelligent than a mere percentage dictates. 


4. “I define myself. I am my own person, always learning and growing.”

Once again for those in the back: test scores do not define who you are! Only you can do that for yourself, and only you can choose what defines you. If you allow yourself to be defined by an exam, you will be. But unlike a test score, which is static and definitive of that given moment, you are not. You are ever-growing, ever-changing, ever-learning. Embrace that part of your humanity; error makes us human, but learning from those errors makes us people.


5. “I have studied hard to get this far. I will not give up now.”

Choosing an AP class over other classes is debatably the student’s own decision. (I say debatably, because we all know at least one person whose parents made them take it.) But continuing on with it for an entire school year when others would have discreetly dropped out? That’s a true show of perseverance that anyone should be proud of. You’ve gotten this far, despite strict teachers, parental pressure, low scores, and mistakes. Not even the lowest pits you’ve dug yourself into swayed you into dropping the class, despite how much you may have wanted to. So don’t let one measly exam sway you now, especially when you’re so close to the finish line. You’ve spent sleepless nights and tireless months studying for this moment—now’s your chance to show what all that work was for! 


6. “I will do my absolute best today, and I will make myself proud.”

A friend once told me, “You have two best friends: you from the past, and you from the future. Best friends always have each others’ backs, so forgive your past self, and help your future self be better.” Help your future self by manifesting a positive, growth-mindset attitude, and make your past self proud of where you are now. Whether it’s the big day of the exam, or even something as simple as getting through a low-stakes presentation, remember your best friends, if anything, and do your best for their sake.


While these affirmations were specifically created with exams in mind, they can be twisted to fit any troubling situation one may encounter in life—academic or otherwise. Additionally, some, or even all of these, may not work for you, and that’s okay! Feel free to create your own affirmations tailored to your situation. Finally, these affirmations are not a definite end-all cure to your problems—they can get you into the right headspace, but remember that you, too, must also put in the hard work to truly bring them to fruition.

Good luck on your exams, Bulldogs!