Your Freaky Dreams About School, Explained

May 8th 2016

Pamela K. Johnson

Your walls may be filled with diplomas, but you can be reduced to a cowering student again in just one night. Stressed-out dreams about school and studying rank among the top three most common subjects to dream about, according to a 2000 study in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

But even though the dream is about school, it may be symbolic of another relationship or larger reoccurring theme in your life that is not classroom-related — if you subscribe to dream interpretation.

Here are four freaky school dreams you may have had and what they might mean.

1. You can’t find your way to class.

You’re wandering through the hallways at school, clueless about how to find your way to a class that starts any minute or to an important test that’s the stepping stone for your whole life.

“Dreams about being lost or searching for something that is lost usually denote anxiety,” dream analyst and author, Cathleen O’Connor, Ph.D. told The Huffington Post.They evoke feelings of confusion and frustration, or even a sense of feeling you don’t fit in.”

O'Connor explains that the dream usually has to do with a current situation in life where you’re anxious, such as a new job where you’re trying to measure up or a new town where you’re not sure you fit. Although the feelings may be upsetting, they can signal a need to put more focus into that area.

2. You didn’t graduate.

School dreams in which we fall short are there to tell us there is something of great, important, and deep meaning missing that we should summon the courage to look at, says psychotherapist Glenn Berger, Ph.D. in his article “Do You Dream You Didn’t Graduate?” “That lack of courage, the tendency to avoid what may feel embarrassing or painful, is always there with the repeating dream,” he says.

The dream may also be about shame and a belief that there’s something truly wrong with us. Berger thinks that the dream may hint at our own self-imposed limitations rather than actual abilities.

"In order to get out of that dream, we need to work through that shame, which leads us to our fear, which causes us to avoid, and brings us right back to the repetition that tells us there is something unbalanced, undeveloped, or unfinished in us that needs to be attended to, but of which we are unaware," he says.

3. You’re a no-show.

You’re at school and too far from the lecture hall to get there in time.

"Dreams prepare us for the bad things that are likely to happen in our life," psychiatrist Daniel Amen told The New York Times. "They're a dry run, a rehearsal, that help us with survival. How does dreaming about not showing up for a test affect our survival? The answer, I would think, is that education is absolutely critical to how far you advance in life. Failing at it is a threat to your self-esteem, your relationships, your success at work, your life. The dream is helping you to have enough anxiety to stay on track."

4. You're unprepared.

It’s the final exam and you not only forgot about it, you haven’t cracked a single book all year, or made it to one class. Or you went to a few classes, and then completely forgot you were even enrolled. Oops!

The dream often occurs in approximation with having forgotten something important in waking life, says Judith Willis in Psychology Today. "The dream may reflect a sense of responsibility, duty, or choice where the dreamer knows what he/she should do, but is hesitant/reluctant to do the act."

A change that indicates the end of something may be at hand, and yet you’re not so confident about what comes next. You may regret how past actions (or inactions) turned out, but the dream is urging you not to put off until tomorrow what can be done today. "It’s a reminder not to miss an opportunity or to take a more active role in one's destiny,” she explains.