Cummings: No classes during Dead Week will cutback on stress

Kelsey Cummings

Well, Spring Break is over. As ISU students return to campus after their week of “fun in the sun” — or at least mildly chilly Midwestern weather — they congratulate themselves on their successful midterms and turn to face a new foe: finals. After a week off, students must now make the just-over-a-month-long dash to the finish line. But April is Iowa State’s most exciting month for the majority of ISU students, and with professors scheduling large projects all due around the same time, students can barely find the time to keep up with their busy schedules, let alone think about studying for finals.

The week before finals is lovingly known by students as Dead Week. This is the week in which students must not only cram in all the work they normally do during a regular school week, but must also study for finals. Iowa State’s policies on Dead Week are pretty well-known by Ames’ student community: no clubs or other organizations are allowed to host official meetings and professors may not require mandatory finals or have any surprise assignments due. There’s also the “23/7 quiet hours” that affects the dorms. 

But are these efforts enough? The quiet hours were implemented with good intentions; the quieter the study spaces the more students will be able to concentrate. Making these hours into a school-wide policy also helps to ensure that every student is on the same page when it comes to studying. But poorly enforced quiet hours are just as bad as no quiet hours at all so campus authority figures in charge of enforcement need to step up to really make this policy effective. 

On the same note, some student organizations and professors find loopholes in the system, making it possible to schedule “unofficial” meetings, exams or large assignments that aren’t quite worth as many points as previous assignments. Not to mention many students still have jobs and other duties to attend to during Dead Week. All these factors added together make for one stressed college student and a load of procrastinated material.

And stress is exactly what university officials should be trying to limit in their students. Counseling experts report that high levels of stress and anxiety can have negative effects on the body, ranging anywhere from the “butterflies” to increases in destructive tendencies like smoking and drinking too much alcohol. Many students also experience an increase in their intake of certain stimulants, like caffeine and Adderall, when attempting to stay awake longer to expand their study time. 

But what if students didn’t have to turn to other means of expanding their time? What if the university declared Dead Week as the “week of no classes?” Because students are often bombarded with too much homework during Dead Week, they are forced to squeeze in study time late at night/early in the morning and during the weekend before finals. This time is simply not adequate for the amount of studying necessary for most students to do well on their final exams. 

While taking a week off from classes may not be ideal for the university, students and their test scores will see the immediate benefits of having time off from school to focus on studying. And while making Dead Week a class-free week might encourage further procrastination in students, being in a relaxed state of mind when finals roll around is perhaps one of the best thing students can do to help prepare themselves mentally and so it seems the pros of no classes outweighs the possible cons. 

With the way midterms work, Spring Break seems to be more of a reward for having taken the tests, as it comes after most students have completed their exams. But finals are generally worth more points than midterm exams and are arguably more important. Extra study time is needed to take on these daunting, end-of-the-year exams in order for students to truly do well and showcase what they’ve retained all semester. Higher scores and happier students would be just as beneficial to the students as it would be to the university. So before finals turn Iowa State into a breeding ground for mentally-drained student zombies, university officials should consider the benefits of taking the “dead” out of Dead Week and authorizing a “no-class” schedule. Prevent this apocalypse.