Puppies & “Primal Screams”: Relieving the Stress of Final Exams

American college students return from Thanksgiving break with one resounding fear: finals week. After much-needed time away from campus, nostalgic visits with old friends and several plates of comfort food, students replace leftovers with a full plate of work – and an overwhelming amount of stress – in the remaining weeks of the semester.

This stress has gained distinct recognition. The week before final exams has been coined “dead week,” notorious for late nights spent cramming for tests and finalizing term papers.

While finals week will never be stress-free, reducing stress is vital to student success and satisfaction. Several colleges and universities have taken notice and are prioritizing students’ mental health by hosting programs (or simply allowing long-standing traditions) that offer a break from the books. These events make “dead week” more livable:

Pet Therapy

They aren’t just adorable; therapy dogs can also reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Many schools have pet therapy programs during dead week or finals week, and some even year-round.


Midnight Breakfasts

Dining halls (MSU, NYU, UConn, Longwood and my own alma mater, VCU, to name a few) open their doors in the early a.m. to provide students with free breakfast food and caffeine. This late-night break from the library gives many students a necessary fresh start and fuel to keep studying.


Primal Screams

Harvard University is rumored to have pioneered the primal scream in the 1960’s, which has since been adopted by many schools like Columbia University, Stanford University, Georgia Tech and more. It started when students would  open their windows or gather in the Yard to yell – which is still what happens at most schools. At Harvard and a few other schools, however, the tradition has evolved into a mass streak through campus.

USC’s rendition of the event (with a capital “C” to reference their nickname) involves their marching band, The Spirit of Troy, aiming instruments at Leavey Library to play a nightly concert accompanied by a splash in the reflecting pool.

These are just a few common events that students attend to relieve stress. What does your school or alma mater do to break up the stress of dead week?

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