The best places to study on campus

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The best places to study on campus

By Thomas Helgerman / Columnist

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No matter where you turn, there are sure to be family, friends, teachers and others telling you the experiences you “have to have” in college. You’re probably looking online at all of the opportunities that the city of Pittsburgh has to offer.

But often absent in the mounds of advice and laughably meaningless BuzzFeed articles about higher education is that, face it, you’ll do a whole lot of studying — just a bit shy of 15 hours per week, approximately.

So, you have a calculus exam in two days, but you can’t study with your noisy roommate at home. Where do you go to get work done?

The obvious option is Hillman Library, the primary space for class work at the University. But, with the colloquial nickname of “Club Hillman,” the library is often crowded and noisy with a lackluster Internet connection, especially at peak hours.

Don’t despair! There are many other places on campus where you can hit the books without distraction.

Towers/Lower Campus

For those living in Litchfield Towers, Nordenberg Hall or another lower campus dorm, there are quite a few options. Towers has a study lounge, which is open to all students. The lounge is relatively quiet and uncrowded.

If you’re looking for a place to study late at night, Market Central is open until 2 a.m. on most weekdays. It’s not too noisy and there are often still chicken patties and french fries available for your late night hunger pangs.

Take a walk outside to reach the William Pitt Union just past the quad. The Union has a very nice study lounge on the ninth floor, complete with a fireplace and kitchen area. The Schenley Cafe and Nordy’s Place on the ground floor are sometimes a little noisy, but offer pingpong, pool and a snack bar for when you want to take a study break.

Continuing past the Union, the Cathedral of Learning is the next Pitt landmark. Now, despite the popularity of the Cathedral Commons, located on the first floor, among students as a study spot, I wouldn’t recommend following suit. Even though many students claim it feels like you’re studying in Hogwarts, Harry Potter surely wouldn’t study in this hot and crowded hall, which offers very few power outlets and a notoriously poor Internet connection.

However, the Cathedral does have study lounges on the third floor, and there is always the Honor’s College. Although they look less like Hogwarts, they are usually less crowded and more quiet for when you’re trying to finish that essay with minimal distractions.

Crossing Forbes, we enter Schenley Plaza, a lovely outdoor area to study if it’s warm and not too windy. If there were a “sweet spot” on campus of places to work, this area would be it. Between sun and waffles and bubble tea and that character strumming his guitar while sitting in the grass, it’s not your average studying experience.

Facing away from the Cathedral, you can see the Carnegie Library on the left, an excellent study spot with lots of light, outlets and quiet — not to mention that a library card here provides access to free CDs and movies. Straight ahead from the Carnegie Library is the Frick Fine Arts building. Inside, along with some classical oil paintings, is a library that is usually uninhabited and pleasantly hushed. 

Mervis Hall is down the hill past the Frick Fine Arts building, which is probably the most well-kept secret on campus, and not just because it is covered with mirrored windows. Mervis Hall holds the Business Library, which has spacious work desks with an outlet and desk light at each one, in addition to a fast Internet connection and a quiet atmosphere. 

The one downside to these buildings is that they have limited hours. So, late at night, instead of walking past Schenley Plaza in the dead of winter, you’re better off just heading to Hillman, which is open 24 hours between Sunday and Thursday. While less than optimal during the day, at night Hillman is much less crowded, which means less noise and a faster Internet connection. 

Still, the library isn’t your only option at night. After classes have let out for the day, the classrooms on the first and fifth floors of Posvar Hall are conveniently left unlocked, which opens up the most private study space on campus — it’s just you and the janitors.


Those living in Lothrop Hall, Forbes Hall or another building on mid-campus have more limited options outside of walking to lower campus.

Across from Lothrop Hall is the Victoria Building, which has a lot of tables, making it particularly conducive to group work. The study area is also connected to a bridge overlooking part of Cardiac Hill, which offers a pleasant view during the daytime.

Heading up Lothrop Street, Scaife Hall is on the right, home to the School of Medicine and containing Falk Library. The library is deathly quiet, and there are even earbuds available at the entrance for students to block out any possible sound. Don’t come here unless you are serious about doing work. Chatty study groups are more welcome on the first floor of Hillman.

Turning right onto O’Hara Street, Benedum Hall and the O’Hara Student Center appear in turn. There is a library in Benedum Hall, but it is often crowded with engineering students. But later at night, classrooms on the ground floor are also available, if you can navigate the building’s puzzling layout. O’Hara Student Center is a very nice, quiet building, but the available space is quite limited.

Upper Campus/Sutherland

For those living in Sutherland, your only option outside of the building is really the Petersen Events Center, which isn’t a great place to study — but it does have places to eat. Additionally, there are lounges available for studying, but there are no nearby libraries or academic buildings.

But don’t fret — the 10A operates from 7 a.m. through 3:30 a.m. on most weekdays, providing access to the many places available on lower campus.

My final note to you

Take these recommendations for what they are worth — one student’s take on the best places to study on campus. There are surely places that I am not aware of that you may find to be better than all I’ve listed. And of course, as the adage goes, the best magicians don’t give away their secrets.

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