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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Exams can boost self-confidence but don't determine future

Rika Kayama

The season of university entrance exams has arrived. I work as an exam supervisor several times each year because I currently teach at a university. All those taking tests look tense. Some bury their face in their hands while trying to tackle questions, while others sigh at the ringing of a bell that indicates the end of a test.

I failed the admission test for my first-choice university two years in a row, so I don't have a particularly good memory of entrance exams. Whenever I see examinees drop their shoulders in disappointment and say, "It's useless," I feel the urge to tell them, "I also had a similar experience in the past."

There were times I felt that educational pedigree was important, until around my 20s and 30s. A friend of mine who entered a university of their choice advanced to a graduate school abroad and achieved great success at a major company upon returning to Japan. I didn't even attend some junior high and high school reunions because I felt miserable listening to what this person had been doing recently.

However, my thinking changed a lot by the time I reached my 40s and 50s. I realized that educational background had nothing to do with whether someone was motivated or trustworthy at work or in their personal lives. On the one hand, I found that a person who took several years to get into university and repeated some years could become an expert doctor famous for being warm to their patients. On the other hand, a person who graduated from the most difficult university and conducted amazing research could become an unfriendly doctor with a bad reputation.

At this age I can clearly say, "The way people live as human beings is important, not which universities they are accepted into."

Although having said that, it's obvious that anyone taking entrance exams would want to pass the test for their choice of university. Furthermore, people who have tried hard to memorize English terms and worked on improving their reading comprehension skills for exams at least once in their lifetime will experience a confidence boost, knowing that they can succeed if they put their mind to something. I believe such people will be able to trust themselves to cope with job-related problems and other issues because they can remind themselves that they were able to work hard for entrance exams.

"Please don't forget how hard you're working now," I called out in my head to examinees as I watched them during exams. I know they will be filled with joy or sorrow depending on the results of the tests. But one's new life only begins after entering a university or getting a job. Of course, this also applies to people who will be working without advancing to university.

Even though some people say "Japan should adopt a fall enrollment system like universities abroad and not hold exams during the cold season," I don't think the current Japanese system that allows people to start a new phase in their life with the arrival of spring is all that bad.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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