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 engaging in all-night studying sessions, often with the aid of stimulants such as coffee, caffeine tablets, energy drinks, adderall, or other prescription amphetamines. During this period, some students 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 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 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 Cornell University, students scream as loudly as possible out of their windows at midnight the night before the first day of finals. This is known as the midnight scream.
  • 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 midnight the eve of the first Monday of finals, students participate in a Spring Pillow Fight.[4]
  • 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]
  • 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 University of California, Berkeley, students may choose to participate in a naked run through Moffit Library in an effort to relieve their stress.


  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. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-20. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
  7. ^ Northwestern Traditions Archived 2008-12-26 at the Wayback Machine.