Dead week

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Dead week is a slang term for the week before schools' final examinations in the United States of America. The week is known thus because of its notorious stress; the propensity for college and university students to save exam study until the last possible week; and because term papers are often due. Students prepare for the exams and papers by pulling all-night studying sessions, often with the aid of stimulants such as coffee, caffeine tablets, energy drinks, or prescription amphetamines. During this period, some students will suffer from sleep deprivation, increased irritability, and vomiting. At some schools, this week is referred to as Hell Week, Reading Period, or Reading Week.

Many campus dormitories/residence halls require near silence for most of the day during the week before finals, to aid to those studying for their finals or writing papers. Depending on the school there may also be a moratorium on paper assignments, exams, and student organizational activities during dead week. Libraries may also be open for extended hours, or might stay available all night.

Yelling tradition[edit]

Many schools have a tradition, known by various names, where students open their doors and windows and scream as loudly as they can (usually at midnight) on one or all nights of this week.

College-specific examples[edit]

  • At Brown University, a group of students go through the libraries naked while handing out donuts to those studying, typically on the night before the beginning of exam period, in what is called the Naked Donut Run.
  • At Iowa State University, Dead Week has become an official University-recognized event. Student organizations are not allowed to meet. There are 23/7 mandatory quiet hours in the student dormitories (the non-quiet, 24th hour is dubbed Rowdy Hour[1])
  • At Penn State University, students run down Mifflin Street naked the weekend before finals to relieve stress.
  • At Yale University, the Pundits, a nominally anonymous student group, organizes a naked run through Bass Library, where many students study for their exams. The event is usually around midnight and the runners hand out candy to the crowd.[2]
  • At Columbia University, students open their windows at midnight and scream as loudly as possible on the Sunday of finals week each semester, popularly known as the Primal Scream. The tradition helps students release their pent up stress and anxiety about exams.[3]
  • At the State University of New York at Stony Brook, dead week starts during the two days before final exams start (known as "reading days") and continues until almost two weeks later, when final exams finish for the semester. The popularity of the "primal scream" has grown to be so great here that students can be found practicing the tradition at various points during the middle of semesters as well (before midterms), and sometimes on ordinary Thursday nights, just to celebrate the end of the week for some students.
  • At Dartmouth College, the Baker-Berry Library is covertly patrolled by volunteer "shot fairies" who offer drink and good company to students preparing for final exams.
  • At Stanford University, students have developed a "primal scream" tradition in which students open their dormitory windows and scream at midnight every night of dead week. This tradition also exists at other institutions including Davidson College, Pepperdine University, The Citadel, the United States Naval Academy, Georgia Tech (Midnight Madness), Michigan State University (The Midnight Screamings), and Sonoma State University (The Sonoma Scream).
  • At Purdue University, dead week is often a week marking a preparation of quiet hours for the entire following week. Though the school is one of the largest in the country, the university stresses quiet during exam week.
  • At Georgia Tech, professors that give traditional exams may assign homework and projects during dead week, but may not assign tests, quizzes, lab reports and lab practicums. Professors that give a non traditional exam, such as a project or lab report, may give homework and the alternate exam assignment during dead week or finals week. Tests, quizzes, and additional lab reports and lab practicums are not allowed during dead week. In either case, professors cannot give any assignment besides the exam during finals week.[5] In practice, many professors take advantage of this and assign homework and projects during dead week. On the Friday of Dead Week, freShGA (freshman leadership organization) hosts its annual One Night Stand. Starting at 10pm and going until 4am, students spend the Friday of Dead Week at the Campus Recreation Center for a night of sport competitions, relays, and tournaments with free food and amazing prizes. Also, Midnight Madness occurs every night during dead week and students scream to vent frustration at midnight.[6] In the library at midnight, free donuts and energy drinks are handed out to students as well.
  • At the University of Colorado at Boulder, the university administrators canceled the reading period after it became apparent that students were partying instead of studying.
  • At Manhattanville College, students protest the college president, an annual ritual that dates all the way back to the great riots of 2010. This signals the beginning of dead week, in which students must compete in a variety of drinking games or risk becoming social outcasts. The week culminates in a naked run across the quad. The winner of the race receives the Golden Valiant Award.
  • At Drake University, the "primal scream" is practiced the Friday before finals but there are plans currently to make it a weekly event.
  • At Cornell University, dead week is more commonly referred to as "hell week", and starts after the weekend of the last week of classes, only ending with the last final exam. The scream tradition occurs on the night before the first finals start, where students scream in unison across the campus and college town at midnight.[citation needed]
  • At Ithaca College, the weekend before finals begins, a large block party consisting primarily of students gather down a single street known as 'Kendal Day'.
  • Primal Scream (Harvard) takes place at midnight on the last night before final exams begin. Students at Vassar College and Smith College maintain the same tradition. The week after final exams but before graduation week is known as dead week.
  • At Princeton University, Dead Week is the period after Spring term final exams but before Reunions begin, so called because most students have gone home but alumni and those staying for the summer have not yet arrived, leaving the campus "dead". The period between the end of classes and the beginning of finals is instead called "Reading Period". Reading Period lasts from the Monday after classes end to Tuesday of the following week (Dean's Date), when most written work – such as final papers and projects – is due. On the night before Dean's Date, students gather in Holder Courtyard and scream at midnight, a tradition known as the Holder Howl.
  • At the University of Puget Sound, dead week is referred to as "Reading Period." The University renamed the two-day break in 1959 in an attempt to distance itself from rival PLU, which simply titles the break "Drinking Time."
  • At Pacific Lutheran University, calls dead week simply "Drinking Time." There is an "unofficial" tradition of a group of about a dozen male students streaking through campus and the library about mid-week dead week.
  • At UC Berkeley, dead week is the week between the end of instruction and the beginning of finals. During this period and through the end of finals some facilities such as the library are open twenty four hours a day. Many students, a large number being from the Berkeley Student Cooperative, run naked through Berkeley's immense "main stacks" in its largest library
  • At MIT, the term "Dead week" is also used to refer to a one-week period between senior week (a period of activities for graduating seniors after the end of term) and commencement, since little to no events are scheduled during this week. It is common for students to plan vacations with their friends during this week.
  • At California State University, Sacramento, Dead Week occurs during the week before finals. During this time student housing enforces a strict quiet hour policy. Even though campus facilities, including the library, close at 11:00 pm, the University Student Union stays open until 2:00 am, providing students with study lounges and free coffee. The campus's Academic Information and Resource Center (AIRC) stays open 24 hours for late-night studying.
  • At Marist College, "Dead Week" is synonymous with "Reading Weekend," or the days between the end of classes and the beginning of final exams. During the fall semester, the college's annual charity Giving Tree – a 30-foot (9.1 m) indigenous pine in center campus – is lit with nearly 50,000 lights on the Saturday of Dead Week, after which students make a short trip to the James A. Cannavino Library to commence studying. In the spring semester, "Senior Week" refers to the week between the end of finals and Commencement. "River Fest," held on Marist's bank of the Hudson River, typifies the tenor of the week, featuring fireworks, music, and refreshments; River Fest is widely viewed as an event where graduating seniors see their professors for the last time.
  • At Northwestern University, there is a tradition known as the "Primal Scream" that takes place at 9 pm on the Sunday night before finals week. The Primal Scream marks the end of reading week, a time when most classes are not in session, and the beginning of finals week.[7]
  • At Southwestern University, dead week is also known as "hell week", and lasts the full week before examinations. It is known as hell week because most professors have term papers and projects due throughout the week, with finals following only a few days later. The scream tradition is held throughout campus at 10 pm on the Wednesday night of finals week, and otherwise, 24-hour quiet hours are enforced throughout the residence halls.
  • At the United States Military Academy, dead week is known as "TEE Week" (TEE stands for Term End Examination). TEE week is marked by streakers, as Cadets who are resigning their appointments need not fear retribution.
  • At Young Harris College students walk the entire length of the campus front wall. If a student falls off or doesn't complete the walk then they must start from the beginning. Also, a tradition states that if a student steps on the seal on the plaza then they will fail their exams.
  • At University of North Carolina, dead week extends from the last week of classes until final exams are over. While there are no "primal scream" traditions, there will sometimes be streakers that run through the Undergraduate Library (open 24 hours) unannounced. Students also have a tendency to relieve stress by partying on nights before reading days. Typically the exam schedule follows a pattern of reading day, two days of exams, reading day, etc., with three exam periods.
  • At North Carolina State, dead week is the full week before exams start, followed by two study days and a week and a half of exams. No homework can be assigned or due during this week unless it has been on the course syllabus or website since the first two weeks of class. This essentially limits work due during the week to major projects that have been going on through the semester.
  • At University of Mary Washington, Dead Week is the week after Spring Semester Finals. During this time, graduate candidates have a week of downtime while grades are finalized. Most of the underclassmen have left and many of the seniors live off campus, leaving the campus with a quiet, empty feeling.
  • At UCLA, Dead Week is the week that precedes Finals week. The school officially calls this time "tenth week" (quarter system). Because most students dedicate the majority of their time to studying during this week, Powell Library is open more often and quiet hours are strictly enforced. The Student Union in Kerkhoff Hall opens most study spaces to study with designated "quiet" and "group" study areas 24 hours a day for both dead and finals week. They also have the midnight scream where every midnight during finals week students will scream out their windows.
  • At The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, there is only one day for reviewing, known as Reading Day. Reading Day falls on a Thursday and Final Exams begin the Friday after. Typically, the Wednesday night prior to Reading Day is marked by the last major parties of the year
  • At Longwood University, the Sunday evening before exams features a "Midnight Breakfast," where professors and administrators serve breakfast food and drinks as students prepare for Finals.
  • At the University of Southern California, the Spirit of Troy performs nightly in front of Leavey Library, usually marching and running through the reflecting pool in front of the library, and aiming and playing their instruments towards students studying inside Leavey Library. This tradition, rather than the tradition of other colleges where students shout out their windows, is known as Primal SCream (noted with a capital SC referencing the school's nickname). During the final week of classes in the spring semester, graduating seniors run through every one of the school's various fountains in a tradition known as the 'Fountain Run'.
  • At the Coast Guard Academy, there is a one or two-day period entitled "Study and Conference Day". During the actual week of exams many normal military obligations are lightened and relaxed, and many students ring the bell on several large buoys scattered throughout the campus.
  • At Western Illinois University, dead week is traditionally the last week of classes before finals when many papers and projects are due. Teachers are highly discouraged from giving exams during this week. The final Saturday before dead week is celebrated with the "final party" of the year, called "Wheeler Street Block Party". In 2011, however, the party was broken up by riot police after partiers tore apart a found bicycle, hung it from a stop sign, set it on fire, then pulled down the whole ensemble to build a small bonfire from the remains. The situation quickly escalated, resulting in 104 citations being issued to 89 individuals. Of those, nearly 50 percent were non-WIU students.[8] The future fate of Wheeler Street Block Party is unknown.
  • At the University of Wollongong, the main tradition for dead week (taking place in the week before term exams) is a nude block party in Kooloobong Village. This party typically takes place on every week night except Wednesday as a way of reducing stress for the residents still there during that week.
  • At the University of Vermont students participate in what is known as "The Naked Bike Ride" to celebrate the last day of class each semester. No matter the weather, students strip down and either ride bikes or run around the university's athletic campus. This celebration is also marked by excessive consumption of alcohol and the concurrent beginning of a week of enforced 24-hour quiet hours.


  1. ^, Heath Verhasselt,. "Verhasselt: Dead Week is a myth". Iowa State Daily. Retrieved 2016-04-29. 
  2. ^ August, Hillary (April 1, 2005). "For the true prankster, every day is April Fool's". Yale Daily News. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2009. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Soterios (May 11, 2005). "Spring Scream at Columbia" (Real Audio, Windows Media Player). All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved August 10, 2006. 
  4. ^ Columbia University's Spring Pillow Fight
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Northwestern Traditions
  8. ^