It’s that time of year again — students are sleeping less, studying more and questioning if they really need a college degree. That’s right, it’s finals week.
Whether someone is a Chemistry major, or a journalism major like myself, chances are they are counting down the days until winter break, and calculating exactly what grade they need on their final to still pass — C’s get degrees after all, right?
Preparing for finals has become so notorious for contributing to an exponential rise in stress that many students refer to it as “Dead Week."
Dead Week at the University of New Mexico, and many other universities, is a figurative term to describe students’ zombie-like state the week before finals. At some universities, it means a week with little to no school work, and a mental break before a week of tests that will more than likely determine someone’s grade.
This week goes by many different names for universities that grant their students time off: “Reading Week,” “Dead Week,” “Revision Week.”
Whatever it is called, students fought for weeks like these, and most of them are relatively new policies.
Illinois State University began to recognize “Success Week” after the 2012 student body president introduced the idea through their student government. ISU’s policies require professors to not administer any tests or assignments the week before finals that count for more than 10 percent of a student’s grade. This doesn’t eliminate work before finals but it definitely reduces some of the stress for students.
Iowa State University also has policies about the week before finals, which the school calls “Dead Week.” For students, that means no quizzes or tests on Thursday and Friday during this time. Across that campus, no clubs or other organizations are allowed to host official meetings, and dorms implemented “23/7 quiet hours” to help students focus.
Stricter pre-final policies can be found at universities and colleges across the globe. Regent’s University London observes an entire week called “Self-study/Revision Week,” which is a week with no classes or assignments.
No matter what the restrictions are leading up to finals, universities justify their weeks similarly to Iowa State University’s policy that reads, “The intent of this policy is to establish a one-week period of substantial and predictable study time for undergraduate students.”
These institutions should be used as examples that indicate it is not unheard of or impossible to give students some sort of break before the biggest tests of the semester.
As someone who was previously an Emergency Medicine major and who is currently involved in journalism, I know how stressful final tests and papers can be.
Last semester was a horror story of finals for me personally. I had a chemistry test on a Friday and the final the following Tuesday, which left me sleep-deprived and stressed beyond belief.
This semester, I was fortunate enough to be able to finish my final papers over Thanksgiving break and was finished with classes last Thursday. I realized this was the exception and not the norm for finals.
Seeing people close to me cripple slowly under the stress makes me discouraged. If every semester, students have to endure two weeks that make you question the reasoning behind attending school, what would make people excited to come back?
For me, studying at UNM has been riddled with struggles that have almost made me drop out, and finals certainly have not helped that. But I was fortunate enough to have a support system that kept me going, and I have now found my true passion.
Others are not that lucky.
If giving students a break before arguably the worst week of the semester helps reduce stress and results in improved grades, even if it just means less work than usual weeks, I am stumped as to why UNM has not implemented their own Dead Week policy.
Critics might say that a more relaxed week before finals will only increase a student’s ability to procrastinate, but to that I say, so be it.
If some students choose to be irresponsible during a time meant to help them study, then that’s on them, but some students would use that time to their advantage. Not helping students because of some who might neglect the privilege of a true Dead Week is not a viable reason to not have one at all.
I realize a Dead Week of any sorts would not eliminate the stress and pressure of finals altogether, but relieving even a little bit of that would be beneficial.
Final exams will always be a challenge, as they should be. However, I hope the expectation of the end of the year consisting of a two-week period of mental breakdowns, all nighters and gallons of coffee can be a thing of the past for Lobos.
To all students still working hard the last couple of days — best of luck.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.