Here's What These Schools Are Doing to Ease Finals Stress
Walk through the campus library, and the anxiety is practically palpable. As far as the eye can see, notebooks and flashcards litter every available workspace, students double fist cups of coffee, desktops double as pillows, and - judging from the smell - showering has apparently taken a backseat to round-the-clock studying.
There's no denying it now: finals week is upon us.
It's a well-known fact that feeling stressed in college comes with the territory, but finals week is one of the few times per year when stress levels are at an all-time high. Combine little sleep, too much caffeine, and the pressure of three papers, five exams, and two presentations weighing on your GPA all at once, and it's enough to make anyone a little crazy.
While college stress may not be anything new, it is part of a much bigger issue. According to Emory University (one school that's doing something to ease finals stress), social and academic pressure is one big factor that contributes to suicide or suicidal thoughts on college campuses. In light of increasing suicide rates among 15- to 24-year-olds, colleges are taking notice of the immense pressure their students are feeling – and, at a time when stress and anxiety levels peak, they're doing something to help.
For one, schools across the country are catching on to the growing pet therapy trend, bringing therapy dogs onto campus and inviting students to come play with them as a way to help students relax before exams start. Take Drexel University's "Puppy Pawlooza," the University at Buffalo's stress-free zone, Emory University's final exam prep, and countless other schools' pet therapy events as proof that finals don't have to be all "hell week."
Pet therapy isn't the only tactic colleges are using to help their students with stress. Lots of schools offer midnight breakfasts, served by faculty and staff, to give students a much-needed break from studying. (Take a look at Chapman University's, Babson College's, and Le Moyne College's interpretations of this new tradition.) Other schools put their own spin on similar events, like Pomona College's "Death by Chocolate" and New York University's free breakfasts during finals week.
On top of a midnight breakfast, some schools host what they call "Cram Jam," complete with games, performances, snacks, and other stress-relieving tactics. Some even combine all of the above: last year, the University of Hawaii's Cram Jam came with yoga, free massages, therapy dogs, and more, while Tulane University's theme was "Crazy Cram Jam Carnival." Others, like Occidental College and Boston University, give their students a little extra pampering for finals week with free activities like yoga, Zumba classes, therapy dogs, food, and - though a little less fun - tutoring.
And if all else fails, the only thing left to do is scream. The University of Southern California is particularly known for their "Primal Scream," as is Northwestern University, Carleton College, the University of New Hampshire, and countless other colleges who like to let out steam this way. Caltech's take on this tradition is particularly unique - every morning during finals week, Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" serves as students' 7 a.m. wake-up call to rouse them for battle. I mean – finals.
These may seem like lighthearted attempts to ease stress during final exams, but when you're running on six cups of coffee and two hours of sleep, playing with a dog or indulging in a midnight breakfast may be just what you need to regain a bit of sanity.
What does your school do to take the stress out of finals?