Coffee Shop or Couch? Why Where You Study Matters
A public library in Dublin. Photo: Flickr.
Where do you study? Most college kids hit up the library, a coffee shop, or study from the comfort of their couches. Some prefer to study outside, and you may even see a handsome coed sunbathing with a book. But, does where you study make a difference?
Your study location can influence how much information you retain, but the most important facet of your study life is efficient and effective use of time. It’s not about the background music, or the cute guy that pours your (espresso) shots. It’s about getting down to business, and gettin’ ‘er done.
Know How You Learn
You can’t know where you’re best suited for study if you don’t know how you learn. Do you need complete silence? Lots of visual interfacing? Will you learn best if you review audio notes?
There are as many ways to learn as there are places to study. Take some time to figure out which style best fits your mind, and plan your studies accordingly. How you learn will affect your ideal study spot. The folks at Online Business Degree, for example, like to study in their closet. Hey, whatever works.
So, what’s the best study strategy? That’s entirely up to you. Meredith Hudson, a law student at the University of Wisconsin, prefers to mix up her study locations. ”I’m a fan of the library in the mornings, because it’s crunch time, and I can get things done quickly.” In the evenings, she says, she “usually need[s] to change it up and head to a coffee shop or a common area. If I have to, heaven forbid, study at night, it’s usually from home.” And on the weekends she heads back to the law library. “It’s so hard to focus that I need as little distraction as possible.”
When studying for her masters, Houston-based blogger Meredith Nudo usually studied at home. “I worked in the library,” she says, “so I needed a change of atmosphere.” Financial restrictions also played a part, with Nudo smartly eschewing public areas because of a low Starbucks budget. “It’s boring and predictable,” she admits, “but grad school is expensive!”
If you don’t know where you study best, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I study better in complete silence, or do I like background noise? Think about it for a minute, and be honest with yourself. It’s OK if you can’t hang due to a high decibel level. It’s your academic life, not a rock concert.
- Do I work best with visual distractions, or with a fairly static environment? Your answer to this might help dictate whether you work best at home or in a study carrel, versus in a bustling coffee shop. If your eyes are easily distracted from the pages of your textbooks, try heading somewhere with little visual noise.
- Will being in public make me more or less social? This one’s about time management. If you want to stop and chat with every friend and colleague you see when you’re out, consider staying in to study. You’ll have plenty of time to schmooze once you’ve aced all your classes. If you’re an introvert, it might be edifying to study among the hustle and bustle of humanity.
- Do I have financial limitations to consider? Be more like Meredith. Save your cash. You don’t need a $7 cup of stale coffee to study, but if you’re at a coffee shop, you probably think you do.
And a few classic study tips, just for good measure:
- Airplane Mode. Turn off the Internet, text messages, and all push notifications on your phone and computer. Study your course materials, not your fake boyfriend’s Facebook pictures from his junior year in high school.
- Try classical music. If you’ve got to have noise, you can at least have smart noise.
- Organize a study group: for when you just can’t go it alone.
- Start with mastering larger concepts, then move on to details.
- Re-read, re-write, retain!
- Eyes on the prize, people. Eye of the tiger. Study purposefully.
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