Study tips for the overworked, exhausted Pitt student

By Diana Velasquez, Culture Editor

It seems that as soon as the academic year starts, we have to say goodbye to it, and these last few weeks of the spring semester are like pulling teeth. If, like me, you can barely put one step in front of the other, you’re probably finding studying impossible.

I was never much of a studier, if I’m honest. I can’t do long stretches of looking at notes and making flashcards. In the college world, we all have to figure out our own method that gets us through the class material — and I’ve developed a few of my own that I hope somebody takes comfort in.

Instrumental music only

This is a relatively common suggestion for people who like to study with music — and it’s a very valid one. I find, more often than not, if I’m listening to music that consists mostly of vocals I’ll get easily distracted. Yes, it’s fun to belt out to Harry Styles, but not when you’ve been working on a final project for three hours and have only written a paragraph.

So, soundtracks. These are my favorite kinds of songs to listen to period — my Spotify wrapped each year is topped by Hans Zimmer and Nicholas Britell — but even if they’re not your usual bread and butter, give it a try for study time. Instrumental soundtracks from big blockbuster movies, like Star Wars or The Dark Knight, can give you some much-needed inspiration. And if you’re not feeling up to that, you can go a little more vanilla with classical music from composers. There’s a reason parents tune into Mozart and Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach’s cello suites for their babies — it’s all good for the brain.

If you don’t know it by midnight, you don’t know it

You all-nighter people might disagree with me, but I’m going to my grave with this one. Staying up all night to study for something isn’t going to do you any good. You’ll feel horrible the next day, and it’s detrimental to your thinking — which you definitely need for your exams.

If you’re still studying and you’ve gotten to that midnight mark, it’s probably a better bet just to go to sleep. Night owl or not, it’s finals week — you’re exhausted, you want to finish your classes, and you could use a break. If you don’t know it, you don’t know it. It’s not the end of the world. People have gotten to a lot of cool places in life by winging it, sometimes you need to take that leap.

Get your finals done before the due dates

This one is especially pertinent for people without in-person finals, like myself, who are going home before the week of finals officially starts. You’ve probably heard this lecture from your parents a billion times, but it really is better to be early for everything. This applies to your finals, too.

If you get your finals — the ones you can do early like essays or final projects — done before the due date, you won’t be so stressed trying to scramble everything together the day they’re due. What I try to do is plan things out the week before. Write down all the dates your finals are due on a post-it or a piece of paper and plan to have each final finished the day before it’s actually due. Then by the time the actual due dates roll around, you have nothing to worry about.

Reward yourself with a gift

Now, this “gift” can take many forms. My gift is I get to go home and as far away from this city as I can for the summer once all of my work is done. It doesn’t have to be that, of course. I would discourage you from rewarding yourself with food — don’t use dinner to motivate, because that can cause some unhealthy habits.

Instead, do other things, such as a $50 online shopping spree. I always like to reward myself with a couple new shirts and shorts for the summertime. Or maybe a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. But it doesn’t have to be clothes — it can be literally anything you’ve had your eye on. Video games are another good one, whether it’s something on Steam or for the Nintendo Switch. That’s a $60 to $80 indulgence, and after the semester we’ve all had, one that is truly needed.