According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 85 percent of college students reported that they had felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the past year.
Anxiety, stress and pressure haunts college students daily, and finals week is no exception. California Lutheran University needs to create a “reading, review and recitation week”, or “dead week”, the week before finals.
For a typical student taking 16 units, finals week would include four finals over the span of four days, if you’re lucky. For myself, taking 18 units all as morning classes, my finals span three days and include written exams, presentations and final papers.
Instead of spending a week before finals reviewing the content, preparing for my presentations and writing papers, I am attending class for hours each day and learning new content that I’ll be tested on in just a few days.
Currently, Cal Lutheran enters finals week after 15 intense weeks of classes. This makes for very little time to digest material and review content learned months ago. Standard academic finals are cumulative to include material from the entire semester. Therefore, you are tested on the content you learned last week and the content you learned 15 weeks ago.
Because of this, finals week can bring about negative mental health. About 30 percent of college students reported that stress had negatively affected their academic performance, according to the ADAA.
However, from a university standpoint, adding a dead week is not doable with our current academic calendar.
Maria Kohnke, associate provost of Academic Services and Registrar, works closely to draft the academic calendar for Cal Lutheran each year. The Academic Calendar is on a very traditional semester system, a 15 week semester with one week of finals. In order for the University to give financial aid, we must follow mandatory federal government established Carnegie Units. Carnegie Units state how many hours students must spend in class and out of class for each credit they are enrolled in.
“We have to make sure in our calendar that we meet that so that we don’t do anything to jeopardize our ability to give aid,” Kohnke said.
If Cal Lutheran were to establish a dead week, in order to properly fulfill the Carnegie Unit requirements, we would have to start our semester a week earlier in the fall and extend it a week later in the spring.
The conversation of having a dead week has been brought up with the university, but is continually rejected because the entire university would have to change their schedule.
“My fear is that we would be harming students in a different way by adding it. Students who need to work in the summer in order to earn money to be here. If we cut that down we could be harming as many students as we’d be helping,” Kohnke said.
There are countless universities that have dead weeks and alter their calendar to fulfill funding requirements. The University of California, Berkeley is one of these universities, also running on a traditional semester system.
UC Berkeley sophomore Vivi Kirsch said she benefits greatly from having a dead week, and she said she believes it’s a nice time away from classes to prepare for the intense week of finals.
“I feel really grateful to have one. For me, it’s a time to collect yourself and get all of your ducks in a row in terms of each class. A lot of content is covered in the duration of the semester and it’s nice to have a week to synthesize and review before being assessed,” Kirsch said.
UC Berkeley hosts review sessions with professors during dead week, many of which are required and allow students to feel confident about the content they learned weeks ago. Kirsch said that not having a dead week would add an unnecessary amount of stress. Aside from studying and reviewing for finals, the final week of the semester includes other stressors, such as packing your dorm or saying goodbye to graduating seniors.
Cal Lutheran implementing a dead week would solve many of these problems. Students would have an appropriate amount of time to review old content, feel confident going in to tests that often dictate much of their final grades and remain mentally healthy.