BLACKSBURG, Va. - The bikini-clad freshmen are stretched out on colorful beach towels, music blasting from an iPod as they soak up the blazing Virginia sunshine.
Finals at Virginia Tech begin tomorrow, but like many other students, Dana Comber and Blake Day aren't immersed in books.
"Classes seem so unimportant," Day said as she picked at the lawn behind her dorm, just down the road from where Seung-Hui Cho began his shooting rampage April 16. "It seems like all the subjects we were taking are so insignificant."
With the campus still reeling from the rampage that left 32 people and the gunman dead, the task of studying for exams seems overwhelming. Most students have decided not to take the tests, choosing instead to accept the grades they had before the tragedy.
"I didn't have the mentality to really study and focus," Comber said. "I feel like it's so much more important to spend time with friends and family."
Professors are being flexible, in some cases allowing open-book exams or letting students take the tests from home. Instructors also have the option of dismissing any exam scores that will lower students' final grades. Some have canceled finals altogether.
"Every teacher, every student, every situation can be negotiated differently," university spokesman Mark Owczarski said.
Among those who plan to take the exams, studying has been difficult.
"The general consensus with everyone I've spoken to is just this total inability to focus," said Natoshia Raishevich, a graduate student in psychology who was part of a volunteer group that provided support to students after the killings. "Say it would take you one hour to read something - it might take you three hours" now.
Raishevich, 22, decided to defend her thesis despite being given the option not to. She completed most of the work before the shooting, but preparing for the defense has been a challenge.
She says she forgets basic information and struggles to keep her mind from wandering to thoughts of the massacre.
Of the 70 students in Bradley Hertel's freshman sociology class, only 10 to 15 have indicated they want to take the final.
"Even if they came back thinking they were going to finish the semester, that alternative just didn't resonate once they felt they already had a good grade," Hertel said. "Their minds weren't in it."