A word of caution for your grandmothers around finals time

Posted on November 18, 2013

Hey college and graduate students! Finals are fast approaching. And I have a word of warning for your grandmothers. Tell them to take care.

Did you know that there is a sudden increase of deaths among students’ relatives at the end of the semester? After years of observation, many professors will attest to this. One professor said that in an average semester, about 10 percent of his students come to him asking for an extension because someone has died. Usually it is a grandmother.

What is it about the weeks before finals that is so dangerous to students’ relatives?

Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of biology at Eastern Connecticut State University, wrote a paper about this and says that grandmothers are 10 times more likely to die before a midterm and 19 times more likely to die before a final exam.

And if you are not doing well in class, then your grandmother should take even more care of herself. Students who are failing are 50 times more likely to lose a grandmother compared with non-failing students.

I learned about this phenomenon from the book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. I was on a jog this morning listening to the book, and it made me laugh. I am a student myself, so it did not take me long to realize what was going on.

The professor wittily speculated that the rise in deaths stems from intra-familial stress. Grannies literally worry themselves to death over the outcome of exams.

Do you believe it? Neither do I. Professors probably don’t believe our excuses either.

The real reason for this “phenomenon” most likely has something to do with dishonesty.

“It may have something to do with students’ lack of preparation and their subsequent scramble to buy more time than with any real threat to the safety of those dear old women. … Perhaps at the end of a semester the students become so depleted by the months of studying that they lose some of their morality. And in the process they also show disregard for their grandmothers’ lives. … Dealing with months of cumulative material from several classes might lead students to fake a dead grandmother in order to ease the pressure.” – Ariely

I remember a time in high school when I faked my own illness so I could lie down in the nurse’s office. My class was having an exam, and I was not ready. At the time, I thought the lie was worth it. But later I just felt guilty. I shouldn’t have gotten more time than my classmates to study. I should not have lied to the nurse – who went to my church – or to my parents – who would not have condoned the faked illness. By the time I reached college, I vowed to never cheat in any form. I admit I have received a few extensions for papers or projects. But I always told professors the real reason: I am stressed. I have too much on my plate.

The professor has usually been kind. It probably helps to be a decent student throughout the rest of the semester.

Here’s the take-away for all you students… now that you know other students have already used this lie, try to refrain from using it or a similar one as your own reason for needing an extension. Honestly feels so much better. And you know what feels best of all? Keeping up with school work and getting it done on time.


P.S. Here is my self-realization of the week: If I had not been called to ministry and if I did not love the Church so much, I think I would have been interested in studying social science or behavioral economics. It fascinates me.

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