At Western Kentucky University, Wednesday is the most coveted day of finals week. After the first two grueling days, we get almost a whole day to buckle down on sleep, studying, and Netflix. An unlucky few are chosen to do finals that evening, but for most of us, it is our last hope for survival.
Despite having our “dead day” to prepare, for many, it simply isn’t enough to guarantee a successful week with minimal stress. While intense studying was happening in all corners of the university for the past few weeks, having full school schedules the week before finals adds so much stress to students’ lives, that finals week isn’t full of review and extra prep.
Instead, it has become a panicked race to review the past few weeks of information, learn additional chapters, and finish homework assignments. Quite a few other universities have exchanged their dead day for the dead week and have gotten incredibly positive response among students. Its time Western Kentucky University adopts similar policies.
In 2009, Georgia Tech asked their students if they had enough time to study leading up to finals week. Not only did 68% percent of them say no, 83% of them addressed being overly stressed the week before. While Georgia Tech had loose policies preventing faculty from assigning major projects during that week, there were no enforcement mechanisms.
This paints the same picture we see on our own Hilltopper campus. Large assignments, projects, papers, and hours of class time the week before tests that can make or break our grades. Georgia Tech decided to create different policies in response to their students. By simply banning quizzes, labs, exams, and major papers the week before finals (unless those assignments are alternate finals) students are having a much better finals week.
They have since become famous for their study week that ends with students all screaming together at midnight. A school that was ranked as one of the most stressful now has amazing reviews for how well students can prep for finals.
The idea of a dead week, whether it entails continuing class or not, isn’t that students can’t handle assignments and review. Instead, it is the idea that universities set up students to have a great finals week. Eliminating extra coursework might just fuel the procrastination of some students, but for many others, it creates the perfect environment.
Students can spend their time talking to professors, buckling down on notes, or picking up some hours with tutors. Their state of mind transitions from a rushed cramped schedule into framing and preparing for the future. Even when keeping up with coursework, we need time to go over sometimes an entire semester of work. Not only did I have biology assignments to complete last week, but I had to review 48 chapters for a compressive exam. I have friends who not only had to prep for five exams but also had multiple 2500+ word essays to complete. I was fortunate enough to have a light course load going into finals, but I witnessed too many students’ efforts of balancing work, assignments, and finals prep last week ending in tears and dropout contemplation to know this is too much.
Not many universities have made the decision to lighten courses the week before finals, but in places where dead weeks have been enacted students have felt better going into their exams. Even if there is no evidence claiming it improves test scores, the fact that it positively impacts the mental health of students is enough to start modeling similar policies at WKU.