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Dead week is a slang term for the week before final exams in the United States of Americamarker. The week is known thus because of the propensity for college and university students to save exam study until the last possible week, and because term paper are often due. Students prepare for the exams and papers by pulling all-night study sessions, often with the aid of stimulants such as coffee, caffeine tablets and energy drinks. During this period some students will suffer from sleep deprivation, increased irritability, and stress. 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.

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

  • At Grinnell College, dead week is known as "hell week" and, unlike in other institutions, professors do not hold off on big assignments. Most group projects and semester papers are due this week which lead many students to dread hell week a lot more than finals.


  • At Yale Universitymarker, 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, often drunk, hand out candy to the crowd.


* At midnight the eve of the Organic Chemistry final (traditionally the first, and arguably most notorious, exam of finals week), Columbia University Marching Band "invades" the main reading room of Butler Library performing ribald scripts in an event known as Orgo Night.
* At midnight the eve of the first Monday of finals, students participate in a Spring Pillow Fight.
  • At Purdue Universitymarker, 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 Techmarker, professors are not supposed to hold exams or have major projects due in the last week of the semester before finals. However, in practice, it is not enforced and many professors ignore the official policy. Also, Midnight Madness occurs every night during dead week and students scream to vent frustration at midnight.
  • At Carnegie Mellon Universitymarker, the primal scream happens at the Fence the night before the finals period starts and is accompanied by a barbecue.
  • At the University of Colorado at Bouldermarker, the university administrators canceled the reading period after it became apparent that students were partying instead of studying.
  • At Drake Universitymarker, the "primal scream" is practiced the Friday before finals but there are plans currently to make it a weekly event.
  • At Cornell Universitymarker, 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 collegetown at midnight.
  • Primal Scream takes place at midnight on the last night before final exams begin. Students at Vassar Collegemarker and Smith Collegemarker maintain the same tradition. The week after final exams but before graduation week is known as dead week.
  • At Princeton Universitymarker, 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 in Holder Hall open their windows and scream, a tradition known as the Holder Howl.
  • At the University of Puget Soundmarker, dead week is referred to as "reading period", and is two days long.
  • At Pacific Lutheran Universitymarker, 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 the State University of New York at Stony Brookmarker, 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 most students.
  • At UC Berkeleymarker, 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. As might be expected, the libraries are all packed.
  • At MITmarker, 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 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 high 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" on Marist's banks along the Hudson River typify the week with fireworks and music; largely viewed as an event where graduating seniors see their professors for one last time.
  • At Iowa State Universitymarker, 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). Professors are advised not to give examinations and make large assignments due during the week if the examination or assignment is not on the syllabus for the class.
  • At Southwestern Universitymarker, 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 10pm on the Wednesday night of finals week, and otherwise, 24 hour quiet hours are enforced throughout the residence halls.
  • At the United States Military Academymarker, 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 West Virginia Universitymarker dead week is the week before finals. Local bars tend to have their best specials like free beer until 12 or 50 cent pitchers all week. Although this week is normally reserved for studying, student demonstrate why West Virginia is one of the top party schools in the country.
  • At Young Harris Collegemarker 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 Carolinamarker, 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 UCLAmarker, Dead Week is the week that precedes Finals week. 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.
  • At the University of Nebraska, students are given a one hour period on the preceding Sunday to be as loud as possible. Music is played, free food is given away, etc. in an attempt to prepare for Dead Week.
  • At Northwestern Universitymarker, there is a tradition known as the "Primal Scream" that takes place at 9pm 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.
  • At The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignmarker, 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 the University of Southern Californiamarker, 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.


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