You know your college student is having many different kinds of experiences while they are at college. You want then to have experiences that will expand their world, increase their independence, and broaden their thinking. But you also know that your student will be spending a significant amount of time at college (hopefully!) just doing the work of studying. When you visualize your student diligently studying, where do you picture them? Do you visualize your student sitting in their peaceful residence hall room at their carefully organized desk? You might be surprised to find that this may be the least desirable place for your student to accomplish their work.
Reminding your student to spend enough time studying maybe one of the things that you expect to do, and your student probably expects to hear that from you. But remember, your student needs to take charge of making their own decisions about studying. If you want to take a slightly different approach that might help your student do well, suggest that they get creative in their thinking about where they are studying as well as how much they are studying. Many students find that having just the right spot to settle in and get work done makes a big difference. Recognizing that every student’s needs are different, and that every campus provides different options, of course, is important.
What should my student consider in looking for a good study spot?
It may be helpful if your student begins by asking a few basic questions.
- Do I prefer to study alone or with others?
- Do I need absolute silence when I study or is music or other noise OK?
- Am I easily distracted?
- Will I need my laptop or internet connection?
- Do I need space to spread out?
What might be options of places to study?
Once your student has considered what they need in a good study space, they can look around campus and the neighborhood around campus, to consider the options.
- Studying in their dorm room may be a reasonable option. Materials and equipment such as computer and printer will be close at hand. Food may be available. Your student can easily study late at night — or early in the morning. However, falling asleep in bed may be tempting, and dorms are often noisy and distracting. Music may be playing, activities may be taking place all around, your student may be tempted to have the TV on, and friends may be stopping by.
- The residence hall may have a study lounge or library. This will provide fewer distractions and may be quieter, but won’t require leaving the building.
- The college library is an obvious option. Students can often find out of the way corners where they can settle in undisturbed. Internet is available, as well as easy access to reference materials.
- Depending on its location, a town or community library may provide a good place to settle in away from college distractions.
- If the weather cooperates, studying outside on a lawn or bench can be pleasant, although there are likely to be distractions.
- If there is a local coffee shop, that can provide a good place to settle in for a while. There may even be internet access available. However, there will be more distractions here — and it will likely require spending some money to purchase something.
- There might be an empty classroom available. If the classroom is mentally associated with schoolwork, this might provide a good place that speaks ”all business”. Students often like to use white boards for study materials and review as well.
- Lounges or waiting areas in public campus buildings sometimes provide pleasant, and often out of the way spots — especially on weekends when there may be less traffic.
- Your student might opt to leave campus and come home to get work done. Often, students may feel that there is too much noise in the dorm and too many distractions other places on campus. This can be an option, and if it is the only way to get studying done it may be necessary, but encourage your student to try to find a good spot on campus, if possible. Leaving campus regularly to come home to study may help study habits in the short term, but won’t allow your student to make connections and stay involved in campus life.
Choosing an appropriate place (or multiple places) on campus to study, and associating those places with studying, may be a key to helping your student succeed. They may not have considered that the location as well as the amount of studying can make a difference. As a college parent, there’s not a lot that you can do about your student’s studying, but you might encourage them to think creatively about when, where, and how studying gets done.
Helping Your College Student Be a Better Student: Twelve Questions to Ask