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By Katarina Brkic
The beginning of an academic term is a stressful time. After the first week spent reading over the syllabus, students are thrown into a state of panic with projects, tests and studying. The abundance of work students receive can drastically affect their mental health. It is a relief then when reading week arrives with its promise of a relaxing week of light work and rest. But this promise is often short-lived.
Since fall reading week coincides with the Thanksgiving weekend, it should allow students to enjoy valuable time with family and friends and be a period of de-stress. However, since the break is during the middle of the term, students’ stress can actually increase. The week quickly becomes a time for students to complete even more work to meet deadlines that fall during or directly after the break.
McMaster University implemented the fall reading week in October 2015 to help ensure the mental health of their students would recover after the stressful, fast-paced scene of university. With the ever-increasing amount of stress students endure at the beginning of the term, McMaster recognizes the necessity of a break for students to focus on other significant elements in their life. Although students, for the most part, are willingly attending university or other post-secondary institutions, it is important to understand their lives do not solely revolve around academics.
The overwhelming pressure on students to achieve high grades to increase their chances of entering post-undergraduate studies translates into an extreme amount of pressure placed on their minds. On top of competing with one another for certain achievements, students also are expected to balance extracurricular activities, potentially hold a job, and maintain a social connection with family and friends.
If students complete their assignments before reading week, then the following week should really be just that: a break. It should mean that students should not have to worry about submitting assignments online or having to cram ten lectures into their head for a midterm the Monday following the break. There is no point in issuing a reading week if students return even more stressed.
Professors should be mandated to have their assignments deadlines or midterms fall the week prior to or following a week after the break. This would then allow students to use their fall breaks the way they were intended by improving their mental health and overall well-being.
Having a fall reading week implemented within the school year has proven to be beneficial – but if this break consists solely of completing more academic work, it should be scrapped. Ultimately, the “break” just becomes another week of school.