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Friday, April 12, 2024

This year's influx in winter weather is more than just inconvenient, it makes getting around on campus downright dangerous. 

Winter wake-up call: The student impact of Madison’s changing weather

Creeping cold and exam anxiety are on the horizon.

As students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison return to campus following Thanksgiving break, changing weather signals the start of their most challenging weeks of the semester. 

Fall break gives a much-needed holiday to fatigued students, allowing them to return home and replenish their depleted energy stores. However, its conclusion thrusts students back into the fire of college, with the weight of the semester's success burdening their spirits. 

As it stands, UW-Madison is currently in week 13 of the Fall 2023 semester. With only a few weeks remaining, final exams are prominently on students’ radar, causing new levels of stress. It is fitting that as break ends and school resumes, Madison throws its hat into the fray, leaving students fighting both their classes and the weather. 

Henry Barber, a UW-Madison junior and Chicago native, said the changing weather and pressure of final exams go "hand in hand" in creating unique mental stresses for already overburdened students.

The feeling around campus during exam season is unrecognizable from its norm. The overbearing pressure of attaining high exam marks forms additional tension and stress for students. The element of the unknown is a driving force of these stresses as the feeling of not knowing what will or won't be on a test can drive students mad. Stress also manifests itself from the increased time spent studying for exams. Students are logging more hours in the library and losing necessary sleep, creating an exponential snowball of stress. 

Additionally, the weather makes navigating campus a more challenging feat. Classes seem farther away, walking on streets becomes more daunting and backpacks feel heavier as the oppressive weather weighs students down. This can make it more challenging to attend discussions and lectures, feeding into the cycles of negative study habits catalyzed by the force of the Madison winter.

The change in the air is not only physically oppressive to student's mental health, but it also prohibits students from activities that could boost their mental health when needed most. Sports are among the most common and widely appreciated hobbies, with a multitude of research supporting their positive health benefits, according to a study by the National Library of Medicine. The study showed a higher level of physical activity correlated to increased protection from psychological stress.

Outdoor intramural sports are one of the casualties of winter. As a fan of intramural sports, Barber is on multiple teams for outdoor sports. When the winter took away one of his main mental health boosters in intramural football, it had a significant impact on his psyche. 

"I can't go out there and get after it because of the weather," Barber said. "It's kind of sad."

Due to the vast pressures and stresses they face during a semester, college students' mental stability and health are in constant flux. College students at over 113 different universities found that more than half of college students meet the criteria for one mental health disorder, according to the National Education Association. At the same time, 44% reported symptoms of depression, and another 37% reported symptoms of anxiety.

The bottom line is students now are more overworked and undersupported than at any other time in history. It does not help that the arrival of winter coincides with an increase in exam anxiety, compounded by the physical and mental detriments the weather can have on students. 

Students are fighting both the education system and the forces of Mother Nature to attain academic success. The only solution is for students to don their coats, hats and gloves and melt the winter ice with their fiery desire for academic triumph.

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Matthew Silletti is a junior studying journalism. Do you agree students' mental health and academics are significantly impacted by the cold weather? Send all comments to

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