Congratulations, it’s the final stretch of the semester and the only thing holding you back from summer is finals week (unless you’re a very lucky co-op student at Northeastern). No matter what your major is, preparing for finals week can be time-consuming and stressful as you try to boost your grades and maintain your GPA.
By this point in the semester, some students have chosen a favorite study environment in which they have found themselves to be most efficient and successful at retaining information, whereas other students may still be struggling to find their ideal study spot.
According to Western Governors University, the environment in which you study can have profound effects on the success of your studying. Factors like noise, lighting, and even smell can impact your ability to focus, and the optimal combination of these factors that is “conducive to learning” varies widely depending on the student.
As “America’s College Town” with around 250,000 college students, Boston is full of well-used study spots like libraries, cafes, bakeries, and parks. These locations vary based on ambience and the characteristics of each environment are important to consider when choosing a study spot based on how you study best.
If you like peace and quiet and are easily distracted by food: Boston Public Library
Bates Hall at the BPL, featured in the recent Oscar-winning film Spotlight, is the perfect work environment if you prefer to study in close-to-silence or if you can’t afford distractions (like coffee aromas or the sight of baked goods) while studying something that demands focus.
The wooden communal tables, overhead green lights, beautiful ceilings, and natural lighting create the perfect atmosphere to get things done. For a change of scenery after your day at the library, step out to the courtyard for some fresh air among the beautiful garden and fountain.
If you don’t like crowds and enjoy a mid-study treat: Oakleaf Cakes Bake Shop
Sometimes the best place to study is where you would least expect it. This unsuspecting study spot is a small custom bakery that also serves coffee and fresh baked goods.
Come here to avoid the crowds that you are bound encounter at popular coffeehouses nearby and set yourself up at one of the seven small tables with a latte and a handmade poptart. You’ll be able to study in a relaxed and tranquil mood, removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you enjoy quality coffee and natural lighting: Render Coffee Bar
Located on Columbus Ave, Render is a specialty coffee shop offering delicious teas, rich coffees, and made-to-order sandwiches. After ordering from the friendly staff, choose to set up your study spot in one of the three areas of the shop.
Pick the high chairs near the front window if you want to people watch, but don’t need much space to spread out. Pick the far end of the shop in the sunroom for some more privacy and great natural lighting. Or you can settle in the middle area, where you can have your space and feel immersed in the coffeehouse vibes. Wait for a seat — it’s worth it.
If you like music, conversational background noise and don’t need to rely on wifi: Farmer Horse Coffee
If studying for you always involves wearing headphones, head over to Farmer Horse on Mass Ave. Cool music is always playing while even cooler people are working, chatting, and drinking some amazing cold brew.
Try to grab a seat at the big, wooden communal table or sit on the window seat looking out to the street. The best work to do here would be reading, writing, and drawing, as the wifi is not always reliable.
If you like dogs and hunkering down to work: Wired Puppy
You’ve probably walked past Wired Puppy on Newbury a million times without noticing it. At street level, this tiny café has a small gated area with a few outdoor tables perfect for a sunny study session. As you venture down the steps into the shop, you’re invited by low lighting and, more likely than not, a furry friend.
Not only is Wired Puppy dog-friendly (as seen on their adorable logo), but their coffee is delicious. Their back seating area, with dim lights and privacy from the shop itself, is ideal for focusing.
If you don’t want to go far and are sick of your Keurig coffee: Pavement Coffeehouse
With six locations and one right next to Northeastern’s campus, Pavement is a great study spot option if you’re looking for a change of scenery but don’t have the time to venture that far from campus. With its unique cups of coffee and quite amazing bagel egg sandwiches, Pavement seems to always be packed with studying college students.
If you’re patient enough to snag a seat and work well with conversational background noise and music, studying at Pavement is a lot of fun and makes you feel part of a community of chill, focused students.
If you like a cool atmosphere and outdoor seating: Caffè Nero
Studying at one of Caffè Nero’s many locations feels like a special occasion. The shops are almost always bustling with people who enjoy their great coffee and pre-made lunches.
If you’re patient enough to wait for a seat, work at a booth with a friend or claim a spot outside on a warm, sunny afternoon. Make studying bearable by treating yourself to a fun experience.
#SpoonTip: Try their Longwood location for a less crowded option.
If you like to study at night: Starbucks Harvard Square
Open seven days a week until 1:00 AM, the Starbucks in Harvard Square is perfect for night owls in need of a study session. Enjoy all your Starbucks favorites along with free wifi and room to spread out as you study.
#SpoonTip: Head up to the second floor for a chill study spot complete with a Starbucks espresso bar.
If you like fresh air and need educational motivation: Harvard Yard
Everyone knows that just being on the Harvard campus makes you smarter, right? You’ll have to go to find out!
Just in time for finals week, Harvard has put out tables and chairs in the famous Harvard Yard, a gated grassy area full of beautiful trees and surrounded by iconic academic buildings. Head over to Cambridge and bask in the intelligence… I mean sunlight… while you get some work done.
If you like the sounds of nature and people-watching study breaks: Boston Public Garden and Boston Common
Don’t let your last week of school be defined by the stress of finals week. Whether you bring your studying or not, grab a blanket and take a trip to the Public Garden or Common to enjoy the last bit of Boston before you leave for summer.
Do some reading beneath a weeping willow or take a study break near the pond to de-stress. Make sure to take some time for yourself!
If you’re looking for inspiration and a break from the ordinary: Museum of Fine Arts or Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Studying at one of Boston’s many museums is an easy way to venture out, culture yourself, and switch up your surroundings. You might have to be creative while searching for a place to settle down, as you don’t want to obstruct anyone’s view of the exhibits.
Look for hallway benches or window seats among the different exhibit rooms to really feel immersed in the calm, artsy ambience. Or you can sit at the MFA’s Taste Cafe or Garden Cafeteria (with outdoor seating!) or the Gardner Museum’s Cafe G for more room to spread out and the option for a study snack.
If you like the water and studying outside: Charles River Esplanade
Spending time along the Charles River Esplanade on a beautiful, sunny day is one of the best parts about living in Boston. If you’re able to stay focused while studying outside and won’t get too distracted by runners, bikers, and the sounds of waves and wildlife, try bringing your schoolwork to the river.
You can grab a bench along the park, bring a blanket and sit on the grass, or, my personal favorite, sit on the floating docks. Studying doesn’t have to be boring!
If you don’t know what you like: Crema Café
Crema Café in Cambridge has the best of both worlds. With a hustling and bustling main floor and a more private and chill second floor, you can show up at Crema, grab a coffee, and try out both floors to see what works best for your study habits.
No matter what, where or how you study, it’s important (and fun) to switch things up every once in a while and try new study spots. Letting yourself get locked into a monotonous and boring study schedule could end up hindering your success in the long run. Never hesitate to change where you’re studying if you’re not feeling it, even if you’ve already settled down somewhere. You don’t want to waste valuable time unhappy in your environment and unable to focus.
Experiment with different environments to find where you are most comfortable and successful. Keep this in mind for the fall as a fun beginning-of-the-semester exploration activity!