7 Best Places to Study – for High School and College Students

March 25, 2024

best places to study near me

I was lucky enough to have access to quality learning environments/study spots throughout my entire academic career. In high school, I routinely took advantage of my town’s spacious but cozy public library. At college, I loved making use of my dorm building’s small, quiet study rooms. And when I started grad school, I was thrilled to learn about a neighborhood café famous for being the perfect place to bang out an essay—perfect, I soon found out, because it didn’t have Wi-Fi. Libraries, secluded reading rooms, distraction-free cafes—those were some of the best places to study near me when I was a high school and college student.

Of course, there are whole academic disciplines dedicated to the study of learning environments. And while I am far from an expert, in my training to become a teacher I spent a decent chunk of time learning about learning. So now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell a pretty convincing story as to why those study spots near me in high school and college—libraries, reading rooms, cafes—were the best study spots near me. Here goes—

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We know from the work of neuroscientists that our brains naturally tend towards a state of distractedness. “Our predisposition is to shift our gaze, and hence our attention, from one object to another, to be aware of as much of what’s going on around us as possible,” writes Nicholas Carr in The Shallows, his 2010 book on the effects of technology on our brains. Why that’s the case is straightforwardly understood. Early in our evolutionary history, our attentiveness to slight changes in the environment was crucial to our survival. Minute fluctuations in light, smell, or sound could indicate an overlooked source of food or a predator lurking in the shadows.

Fast forward. While today we don’t have to worry about saber-toothed tigers lunging for our jugulars, our primitive brains are still on high alert, ready to shift our attention on a second-to-second basis. Our intellectual development depends, then, on our ability to fight what Carr calls our “instinctive distractedness.” So when it comes to studying, and the environments in which to study: the fewer distractions, the better. The library, study room, and internet-less coffee shop all fulfilled that criterion: they were environments conducive to concentration, relatively free of distractors.

Best study spots near me – what to keep in mind

Because our brains tend towards distractedness, the best study spots near me were the ones with the fewest unnecessary distractions. But it’s not just the presence of distractions that affects our ability to concentrate. Studies have shown, for example, that natural light positively impacts academic performance. One study found that students in classrooms with large windows performed 15-23% better on exams compared with students in classrooms with low levels of daylight. So favor well-lit study spots with natural, variable light.

The best study spots near me were also—surprise, surprise—quiet. Noisy environments increase stress, make it difficult to concentrate, and can even cause problems with memory. What’s important to note here is that noise affects us whether we like or not. Even, that is, if we claim to be able to “tune out” that ringing cellphone, traffic noise, conversation, or hissing espresso machine. Another rule of thumb: opt for study spaces free of unwanted, intrusive noises.

Best study spots near me

1) Libraries

For my money, libraries are the hands-down champion of study spaces. There’s just something about being surrounded by books that, for me at least, promotes reading comprehension, concentration, and productivity. In fact, studies have shown children who grew up with more books in their homes have above-average rates of literacy. But I digress.

Libraries are perfect study spots because they’re quiet, populated with helpful librarians, equipped with internet access (ideally for research, not YouTube), and full of supportive learning environments for all types of learners. I always loved snagging an individual desk or table so I could spread out all my study materials—texts, index cards, notebooks, laptop, coffee. But I also liked grabbing a seat at one of the long, communal reading tables, especially if I knew I had to put in a good hour or two on a book or paper.

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Many libraries also offer private rooms available via reservation. That’s hugely important because the learning sciences have demonstrated that externalization and articulation are paramount to effective learning. Here’s this from the intro to one of my learning sciences texts: “In many cases, learners don’t actually learn something until they start to articulate it—in other words, while thinking out loud, they learn more rapidly and deeply than studying quietly.” So ask yourself questions, summarize—out loud—that chapter you just read, give voice to lingering confusions and complexities; to do so is a crucial part of any successful study routine. Just make sure you’re not talking to yourself in the middle of the quiet reading area.

2) Study areas and reading rooms

In addition to libraries, it’s common for high schools and colleges to offer dedicated study areas and reading rooms. While these spaces might not have the same cozy, booky ambiance as libraries, they’re great alternatives. The advantage of these spaces is that they’re dedicated study spaces—providing students with a space to study is their express purpose. Expectations, knowledge, and values are embedded in physical spaces. When you enter a space where it’s expected that you’ll study, chances are you’ll study.

3) Parks, beaches, and other public spaces

This category will depend, of course, on weather, geography, season, transportation, etc. In general, though, I’ve found that beaches or parks are among the best study spots near me. They’re usually not too crowded, and except for the occasional obnoxious beach or parkgoer who decides to bring speakers, it’s not too loud, either. So when the conditions are right, the beach or park checks all the boxes of a great study spot. Parks may actually have the leg up on beaches, since parks have the added benefits of shade-bestowing trees, benches, water fountains, and restrooms. Another benefit? No Wi-Fi!

4) Coffee shops and cafes

Whether or not a particular coffee shop or café will make a suitable study spot depends entirely on the place itself. A loud, crowded, chaotic Starbucks where customers are jockeying for their mobile pre-orders and employees are shouting out names? Probably not the best bet.

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In general, I’m wary of studying at coffee shops and cafes. Customers flitting in and out, overheard conversations, change rattling in the tip jar, the barista’s playlist jingling from the ceiling speakers—coffee shops are rife with potential distractions. And as a result, I never felt comfortable studying in coffee shops, never felt that clarity of mind that comes about when you’re fully immersed in your work. But that doesn’t mean that coffee shops and cafes are poor study spaces for everyone. Coffee shops on college campuses or in college towns often offer studiers a relaxed, quiet environment with comfy seating and tables perfect for spreading out books and papers. Plus, caffeine has been shown to improve cognitive performance.

5) The bookstore 

This one depends on the bookstore. If you’re lucky enough to have a bookstore nearby that also offers seating, a reading room, or a café, then you’re in business. The experience of studying at a bookstore is part library, part coffee shop. You get the hushed reverence of book-lined walls and the productivity-enhancing kick of caffeine.

It’s worth mentioning that bookstores and coffee shops are commercial enterprises, so they’re not quite as democratic and egalitarian as public libraries. In order to access these spaces, you’ll probably be expected to spend some money.

6) At home 

Okay, caveats first. If you have roommates or share a dorm, carve out specific quiet or study time, and make sure you have access to quiet areas conducive to study. Another key to studying at home is clearing your study space of distractions or ways to procrastinate. The danger in attempting to study at home lies in the fact that at home, we’re surrounded by things with the potential to distract us: tempting snacks in the fridge, the television, the comfy looking couch, that new (or old) gaming console…the list of potential distractions in the home could go on forever. I’ve found that I’m my most productive in clean, well-organized environments. That means that before I open my laptop or book, I tidy up. Once the dishes are done and the bed is made and the dirty clothes are deposited in the hamper—that’s when I’m really ready to concentrate.

7) Anywhere your phone isn’t 

Probably the best study spot near me is anywhere my phone isn’t. That might sound tongue in cheek, but it’s not. If this article is a room, then the cellphone is the metaphorical elephant. Because as I’ve prattled on about the dangers that environmental distractions pose to our study habits, I’ve neglected perhaps the biggest distractor of all, the one we carry with us at all times, in purses, pockets, and backpacks, whether we’re in the library, coffee shop, or classroom.

When I want to focus on my work for an extended period, I open up my apartment door, walk downstairs, and lock my phone in my car. It might sound extreme, but it works: the presence of smartphones has been shown to have a deleterious impact on cognitive functions like recall and attention span.

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If locking your phone in a car or safe sounds a bit draconian, don’t worry. You can always start by leaving your phone in another room. We know that distraction is public enemy number one when it comes to successful studying. So one of the best study spots near me—or you—is not really a place at all. It’s more a state, or condition—the condition of not having your phone within reach.

Best Places to Study Near Me

We hope this blog points you in the right direction in seeking out the best places to study near you. We encourage you to check out the following relevant blogs: