What Do Dreams of School Mean?

5 Min Read | By Nicholas Barber

Last Modified 14 February 2024   First Added 3 November 2022

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

The Meaning Behind School Dreams

Dreams of being back at school generally symbolise learning. They’re especially common to experience if you’re learning something new in your waking life, whether it’s a language, skill, or settling into a new job. They’re also common if you’re studying for an exam. Research by Sorbonne University in Paris found that over 60% of the medical students who took part, dreamed of an exam the night before an exam.

For many people their time at school was one full of anxiety. As such, this dream can reflect current fears in real life. As a result you may dream that you are back in school or you’ve failed exams in school. It’s also quite common to dream of being late for school. Such dreams may also reveal you have imposter syndrome – fears of being incompetent with often unwarranted anxiety about your abilities.

In this article we look in detail at what these dreams of school could mean to your waking life.

The dream:

You’re in the middle of cleaning your teeth when – O.M.G. – you realise it’s the morning of your history exam! After dashing to school, you quickly locate your allotted desk and eagerly start scanning the test paper. There’s just one problem and it’s a biggie. You’ve completely forgotten to do any revision. At. All!

The first question is about something to do with the First World War. You’ve no idea what the answer is. You try the second question – about ancient Egypt – and again draw a complete blank. Then the third and the fourth. Nothing. Your heart sinks as you realise there’s not a chance on earth you’ll be able to answer a single question. You feel sick with anxiety.

Looking around you see all your classmates scribbling away intently and it makes you feel even worse. You feel so alone and embarrassed. What is going on? Why didn’t you prepare for this?

Then you wake up. It was all just a very unsettling dream. But just what could it mean?

Meaning(s) of the dream:


Whether you’re back in the classroom with your old friends, are faced with sitting an examination, or are late for school, each of these dreams will have very different meanings. Here, we explore the most popular school dreams in more detail:

1. Dreams about being back at school

If you left school years ago, these dreams say that you carry some unresolved problems from your childhood. This dream can also point to some life lesson that you’ve yet to master. According to Millers Guild, a dream about school is, “a clear sign that you need to move forward in life, seize every opportunity to learn new things, and become qualified for new things, all of which will help you to mature and grow as a whole person.”

2. Dreams about taking an exam at school

Finding yourself sitting an examination in a dream can be an indication that you need to solve the problems you have in waking life. It can also mean you value your individuality and can suggest that you need to learn lessons from your daily life. According to Aunty Flo, “This dream is associated with self-criticism and the need to achieve high expectations in your life. If you are sitting an exam in the dream it can indicate that you are experiencing anxiety, especially if things keep going wrong.”

3. Dreams about being late for school

Ever dreamed about dashing to school and racing to get there before the bell? This dream is said to highlight a lack of planning around an important or serious issue. It could be a sign that your priorities aren’t straight or that you’ve been showing a lack of responsibility. In your waking life you may be feeling disorganised, or that you’ve been putting off something that you really need to finish.

4. Dreams about taking an exam you haven’t revised for

Similarly, this dream is all about that horrible feeling of being unprepared. It can signify you know deep down – whether you’d admit it or not – that you haven’t worked hard or not prepared enough for your personal goals. Perhaps you’ve been procrastinating at work and risk missing deadlines. Aunty Flo says this dream indicates you’re unprepared to take on a major challenge. “Another indication is that this dream is related to frustration so try to prepare responses in your waking life – if you encountered any criticism or judgment within your dream,” says Flo.

Answering the dream:

Whether or not you have happy memories of school, one thing that’s true for all of us is that it helps to guide us through childhood to adulthood to eventually gain our independence. As such, school can represent a symbol of authority in waking life, such as a boss or someone who controls you. According to Aunty Flo, “To see yourself sitting a final exam in a dream can suggest you need to resolve problems in life and act more mature. It can imply that you value being an individual and can suggest that you need to learn lessons in daily life.”

Notable appearances in popular culture:

There’s a plethora of films and television shows depicting the whole spectrum of schooldays experiences – from Mean Girls’ depiction of a social hierarchy based on grade, looks, and wealth, to High School Musical’s romanticised school experience. Perhaps the most famous fictional school of all time is Hogwarts, the boarding school established in the Scottish highlands where star pupil, Harry Potter received his magical education. Almost as iconic was the TV series Grange Hill, which ran on BBC1 from 1978 until 2008, watched by a whole generation of children across the UK. Grange Hill tackled difficult issues such as addiction, divorce, homelessness, Aids, teenage pregnancy and pupil-teacher relationships. However, most will remember it for its quirky opening sequence and theme tune.

Just like dreaming of school, being chased in your dreams has a meaning to your waking life. For more, take a look at what being chased in your dream means, or what dreaming about running late means.

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