How to Make the Most of Your Study Sessions

You know studying is the key to academic success. This has been drilled into your head over and over throughout your entire academic career.  Getting a bad grade is never an easy pill to swallow, but it’s even more gut wrenching when you know the bad grade is the result of poor study habits.

So, what contributes to successful or unsuccessful studying?

Noise, temperature, lighting, distractions, and resources at your go-to study spot are all factors to consider before auto-piloting to your usual location. On top of that, ask yourself these questions: Did you eat before sitting down to study? Have you exercised recently? Do you have a study plan? Is your work area clean? Are you distraction free?

Location is Key!

If you feel like you spend countless hours studying and still have trouble pulling off the grades you want, it could be that you’re simply not studying in the right places for you. We have found that the key to successful studying is actually your study spot.

It doesn’t hurt to try studying in a few different locations to see what works best for you.  Studying different subjects might lead you to different study environments. For example, the perfect setting for studying calculous may not be where you do your best essay writing.  The top places to study on the UW campus are pretty typical. There are countless libraries, two Student Unions, local coffee shops, academic buildings, and of course, the option to study from home.

Check out these pros and cons of Madison’s top study spots and see if you agree.


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Union South:

  • Variety of study environments in one building
  • Food and other entertainment available
  • Group study conducive

  • Might be interrupted by someone you know
  • Can get very crowded
  • Can be busy and loud near meal times or between classes
 memorial union

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union2(photo credit: travel wisconsin)

Memorial Union:

  • Near eastside campus buildings (You can study right after class!)
  • Lake views and outdoor seating available (weather permitting)
  • Perfect for solo or group studying

  • Often home to loud social events and meet-ups
  • Non-students often around evenings and weekends
  • Typically busy and loud
Public or Campus Library:

  • Quiet
  • Many seating options (often with outlets!)
  • Spacious tables and private desks/cubicles

  • Few food and drink options
  • Quick to fill-up near finals
  • May need to reserve a room for group study
A State Street Coffee Shop:

  • Great smell and easy access to caffeine
  • Comfortable seating
  • Unique atmosphere and background noise

  • Have to buy something
  • Spots may fill up quickly
  • May harbor distractions such as live music

  • You can’t “forget anything at home”
  • It’s your space to sprawl out in
  • No need to spend money or walk far for a snack break

  • Temptation to watch TV
  • May get too comfortable on a couch or bed
  • Roommates pestering you


It’s an Individual thing

The study spot your friends prefer may not be what works best for you, so be open to the idea of branching out on your own at times.

Virginia tech created an interactive chart to help college students measure their options and choose the study-spot where success is most probable. Try it out, and let us know how your favorite spots stack up.  Feel free to add to our list of pros and cons or make recommendations below in the comments section or on Facebook. It’s not just about more studying; it’s about setting yourself up for success from the beginning.

Planning how you will study is just as important as actually hitting the books. Wishing you happy studies and a successful semester!

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