Chinese High School Seniors Celebrate Completing the Gaokao with Makeovers

Some students are relaxing after finishing the intense college entrance exam by heading to beauty salons

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6:25 PM HKT, Tue June 18, 2024 1 mins read

After this year’s gaokao (China’s notoriously difficult college entrance exam), which took place on June 7th and 8th, many high school seniors have been enjoying a well-deserved break from intense study. Their first stop for some relaxation? For many, beauty salons.

Due to their busy schedules as well as school policies, many high school students in China don’t have a chance to experiment with their style or appearance, for example by changing their hair color and trying out different nail art. Finishing the gaokao hence is not only a significant milestone in students’ academic paths, but also an opportunity for them to change their looks.

On Xiaohongshu, the hashtag “Having a Great Transformation after the Gaokao” (#高考完了来一场巨大的爆改) has started to trend, with current high school students and older graduates sharing their post-test makeover experiences.

“[After the gaokao] the desire to become beautiful that I had suppressed in high school exploded instantly. After the college entrance examination, I immediately started a huge makeover from scratch,” posted Qijiang (琦酱), a high school senior from Sichuan Province. She posted her first-ever vlog right after the gaokao, documenting her experience with manicures, eyebrow tattoos, and hair dye. The video has received 1,400 likes so far.

“After finishing the college entrance examination, I didn’t have the excitement and sense of freedom I imagined. Instead, it felt more like a trance or dream-like state. How has my senior year of high school already ended?” she further shared in another post. “But the fact is that we have indeed gone through and completed a very important journey in life, and we will definitely grow and meet a better version of ourselves.”

In a survey following her post, 513 of 709 participants indicated a similar willingness to transform themselves after the gaokao.

However, some voices of disagreement also emerged.

In one post, which received around 6,000 upvotes, a Xiaohongshu user complained that the trend of makeovers essentially pressured the next generation of women into beauty practices, which, as argued by feminist Sheila Jeffreys in her book Beauty and Misogyny, are a significant aspect of women’s oppression rather than a reflection of individual female choice or creative expression.

“Studying for years is hard enough. Do these recent graduates mean to keep making it hard? Although I haven’t entirely left beauty practices behind, it is undeniable that maintaining beauty is very hard and tiring,” the user commented.

Despite the occasional disapproving comment, the common view online nevertheless remained that it was natural for people to transform themselves after suppressing their desire to do so for so long.

“Disenchantment stems from previous experiences. You have to go through it and feel it. When you feel uncomfortable, you will naturally abandon it,” another netizen commented, receiving around 4,700 upvotes.

Aside from beauty transformations, many graduating high schoolers are making travel plans or looking for part-time jobs for the summer.

Banner image via Yyyocheved on Xiaohongshu.

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