A.J. Kazlouski, a junior majoring in English at the University of Colorado, finished an atmospheric science exam Monday night and headed straight over to the University Memorial Center for his mid-finals ritual: Midnight Breakfast.

He and his friends scored a table near the food line. Some semesters - when they have lighter test loads - the friends bring board games or go play billiards leading up to the breakfast.

"We're vets," Kazlouski said.

CU's Midnight Breakfast draws in masses of finals-frenzied students who have been holed up in the library, their apartments or their dorm rooms. It's an oasis of stress relief, with aromatherapy and chair massages. This year, there was a "masquerade theme," so students could craft their own masks and take waltz dancing lessons.

The social event is a good break for Kazlouski, who is mostly a "solitary studier," he said. When he needs a break from the books or writing papers, he usually reads a comic strip, he said.

His buddy Jake Gerwing, a junior at Front Range Community College, has been crashing - err, "joining" - the Midnight Breakfast fun for the past few years.

Leading up to the breakfast, Gerwing, an animation student, worked on sketches for a fashion design course. He had eight sketches down and 12 to go before the project was due Thursday. His theme is "springtime in Colorado," so the designs included detachable sleeves perfect for layering.

Environmental studies major Rebecca True is becoming nocturnal this week. She stayed up all night on Sunday, took a nap Monday, and was planning to pull another all-nighter Monday. She was among the hundreds standing in line for the free breakfast just after midnight.

"I'm hungry and I figured I'd be up all night anyway," she said.

Gemma Mendoza, a CU sophomore, was braced for an all-nighter. She showed up at the UMC promptly at 9:30 p.m. so she could be among the first in line when the chair massage booths opened up.

Kelsey Myers, left, a freshman in environmental studies, gets a massage from Sarah Tamura during the University of Colorado s Midnight Breakfast in the
Kelsey Myers, left, a freshman in environmental studies, gets a massage from Sarah Tamura during the University of Colorado s Midnight Breakfast in the University Memorial Center on Monday night. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL )

"I get really stressed - especially when I have two exams in one day," she said.

CU freshman Hannah Doht was reviewing material for a genetics exam in the UMC late Monday night.

Her study strategy: "I just keep studying until it's time for the exam. Otherwise I freak out," she said.

CU student leaders this semester passed a resolution asking university leaders to reinstate "reading days," which would give students a one-day reprieve between the last day of classes and the first day of finals each semester. After consulting with faculty leaders, Chancellor Phil DiStefano likely will make a decision within the next year about whether to bring back reading days.

Finals at CU began Saturday and run through Thursday. The spring commencement ceremony is at Folsom Field on Friday.

Sabrina Kaur, a biology and psychology student, is in the final stretch before earning her bachelor's degree. She took a study break Monday evening to bling out her graduation cap with sequins, glitter and a faux flower. After finals, she'll be studying for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT.

Sarah Sharpless, a freshman studying molecular, cellular and developmental biology, said her study strategy is to review past exams and turn in early, getting a good night's rest. And when things get stressful, she calls home to mom in Washington, D.C.

"She tells me not to stress, not to over-think answers and to go with my gut," Sharpless said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.