During reading period and finals week, finding the perfect study space requires strategy, luck, and maybe a good friend or two who will text you when a cubicle opens up next to them. And when it comes to studying for exams and finishing papers, you can’t settle. You have to acquire the perfect study space – it has to fit ALL the criteria, or you’ll just make up some excuse to not be productive. Here’s how I evaluate my study spaces:
- Climate – Where I study can’t be too warm or cold, and it definitely cannot be too humid or groggy.
- Outlet accessibility – This is a make-or-break.
- Noise level – How quiet I need it to be usually depends on the amount of concentration I need at a given moment.
- Lighting – It depends on the kind of work I need to do. If I need to read notes or my textbook, I’m going to need some prime lighting. If I’m coding or just doing work on my computer, this is not as important.
- Table space and chair quality – One of the most important criteria for good study space, in my personal opinion.
- Coffee accessibility – It’s always nice to be able to have a coffee break if need be.
- Emptiness – I personally like places that aren’t crowded, but aren’t completely vacant either (I get lonely).
- Hours open – For creatures of the night, like myself.
Below, I’ve listed out all 10 places I’ve studied this past finals season. How have they fared? Each criterion’s score is out of 5.
- Climate – 2 – It usually feels too cold for me, the lower entrance doors always let outside air in.
- Outlet accessibility – 4 – Outlets are pretty easy to find, but the ones on the ground may cause some undesirable wire entanglement.
- Noise level – 3 – It can get a little loud.
- Lighting – 4 – I’ve never had a problem with the lighting in Brody Atrium.
- Table space and chair quality – 4 – Loads of variety and space, but the low coffee tables almost serve no purpose – how can someone study leaning down like that?
- Coffee accessibility – 4 – There’s Brody Cafe, but that’s a couple flights of stairs up, which takes a point off of the score when you’re in the library post-leg day.
- Emptiness – 1 – Always packed during finals.
- Hours open – 5 – Always 24/7.
- Overall ranking – 27/40 – 10th place
BARNES & NOBLE
- Climate – 1 – It was actually too cold for me to study. Usually if somewhere is cold, I can get over it. For B&N, I actually had to go home. And take a nap. Because it was cold.
- Outlet accessibility – 3 – That one big table next to the cafe has a slot with 4 outlets, but they didn’t work when I was there? Luckily, the two wall outlets worked fine.
- Noise level – 5 – Didn’t have a problem with it at all.
- Lighting – 5 – The lighting wasn’t bad either.
- Table space and chair quality – 4 – There’s actually a lot of seating in the cafe area, just make sure to wipe off the pastry crumbs with a napkin.
- Coffee accessibility – 5 – There’s a cafe.
- Emptiness – 4 – People tend to forget that this is a study space option, so I haven’t seen it crowded at all.
- Hours open – 1 – According to the website, it closes at 9PM, which isn’t great.
- Overall ranking – 28/40 – 9th place
- Climate – 5 – Not an issue.
- Outlet accessibility – 5 – The wall outlets don’t cause an issue.
- Noise level – 5 – Classic coffeeshop quiet. It’s a nice, not-college atmosphere.
- Lighting – 4 – I never had an issue with the light, but I’ve never really studied at Starbucks at night. I’m not sure how dark it gets.
- Table space and chair quality – 2 – There’s really not a lot of space to study, besides the window seats and a couple of high tables.
- Coffee accessibility – 5 – Well it’s Starbucks, so.
- Emptiness – 2 – Every time I’ve studied here, it’s been pretty crowded. Then again, there’s not a lot of seats.
- Hours open – 2 – It closes at 10PM, which is better than Barnes & Noble, but not great.
- Overall ranking – 30/40 – 8th place
- Climate – 5 – It didn’t feel extremely hot or cold.
- Outlet accessibility – 4 – Could be better, but then again, this library is from the 1800s, so I’ll cut it some slack.
- Noise level – 5 – Honestly the level of quiet contributes to its beauty.
- Lighting – 4 – Not a problem.
- Table space and chair quality – 5 – There are large tables between the bookshelves, and also individual desks with lamps in the center of the library. Fantastic.
- Coffee accessibility – 3 – I honestly have no idea where the closest place to get coffee is, but this is where your reusable coffee mug comes in. Pack it up in the morning and enjoy a day in Mt. Vernon.
- Emptiness – 4 – It was pretty empty when I studied here, but I’ve only been here once so I’m not sure how packed it gets! My friends and I occupied one of the big group tables, and when I left, most of the tables were empty or hand seats, and most of the individual desks were unoccupied.
- Hours open – 1 – From Tuesday to Thursday, it closes at 5PM, and on Fridays it closes at 3PM.
- Overall ranking – 31/40 – 7th place
BRODY READING ROOM
- Climate – 2 – My biggest problem with the Reading Room is that I always somehow pick the seat directly above the air vent and reach my personal freezing point quite quickly.
- Outlet accessibility – 5 – Two outlets at every seat!
- Noise level – 5 – A peaceful quiet.
- Lighting – 4 – First of all, the ceiling lights are cool rectangular prisms, and second, there’s lamp lighting at each seat. Sometimes the buttons to turn them on don’t work though??
- Table space and chair quality – 4.5 – Would have been a 5/5 had I not, two days ago, sat in a chair in the Reading Room with a broken right arm rest..
- Coffee accessibility – 5 – Literally the only closer option to the Brody Cafe is the actual Brody Cafe.
- Emptiness – 1 – A friend of mine half-jokingly half-actually proposed an idea for an app that would give you a notification whenever a seat in the Brody Reading Room opened up during finals week, and gave you the exact latitude and longitude of the seat of interest.
- Hours open – 5 – Open 24/7.
- Overall ranking – 31.5/40 – 6th place
- Climate – 5 – Haven’t had a problem with temperature or humidity.
- Outlet accessibility – 3 – Only certain desks have access to outlets, so if you don’t get one of those, you’re kind of out of luck.
- Noise level – 5 – Always quiet, but people haven’t called me out yet for having conversations with the person next to me. Perfect.
- Lighting – 3 – If you get a seat next to the windows, the lighting is great during the day. But once the sun sets, it can get kind of dim unless you’re directly underneath an overhead light.
- Table space and chair quality – 3 – The black circular desks are always the perfect amount of space for me – a laptop, a notebook, maybe a textbook, and my random assortment of junk (water, coffee, wallet, keys). However, that means if you have a study buddy or group, you’ll have to split up, which is kind of sad.
- Coffee accessibility – 5 – The Brody Cafe is right across Tyler Terrace.
- Emptiness – 3 – You can pretty much always grab one of the seats, but no one really studies there – so it’s good when you don’t want to be distracted, but gets lonely after a while.
- Hours open – 5 – All of MSE is open 24/7 during finals season!
- Overall ranking – 32/40 – 5th place
- Climate – 5 – I never feel uncomfortably hot or cold!
- Outlet accessibility – 5 – I can always be plugged in if I need to be.
- Noise level – 4 – Usually don’t have a problem with the noise level. A-Level is usually louder.
- Lighting – 3 – Classic, loyal fluorescent lighting makes reading fine, but is not the most inviting.
- Table space and chair quality – 4 – I dig the variety on M-Level: big group tables, high tables with connectable screens, individual desks facing the glass windows, and also more private cubicles. I usually snag the big tables with a group of friends, and here is where the score for this criterion falls by one — the chairs. For the group tables, they kind of sink in a sad way. Only way to make it better is to steal the roller chairs if they’re not being used.
- Coffee accessibility – 5 – The Brody Cafe is only one flight of stairs up. A+
- Emptiness – 1 – Was pretty much packed every time I passed through. When it gets late, I notice that some people tend to flock here and set up their late-night study camp on M, which is nice if you’re also there and don’t want to be alone.
- Hours open – 5 – All of MSE is open 24/7 during finals season!
- Overall ranking – 32/40 – 4th place (using my power of judgment between Q and M)
- Climate – 4 – There was a slight draft with my back facing the main door.
- Outlet accessibility – 5 – The tall tables have these really awesome hidden outlet centerpiece things that stick up above the table when in use, and when you don’t need them, you push down on them and they disappear into the wooden table. Okay that was a really bad description of it, but hopefully the point was made clear that the outlets are there.
- Noise level – 5 – Nice level of quiet with a casual chatter of people dining.
- Lighting – 4 – The lighting is pretty good – not the best, but not bad either.
- Table space and chair quality – 4 – There’s not a whole lot of table space. My friend and I had to wait until there were open seats before we could sit at the study area.
- Coffee accessibility – 5 – The Japanese-style iced coffee was on point. Plus they serve you your side of milk or cream in miniature mason jars, and your sugar as a syrup inside of a tiny bottle. How cool is that.
- Emptiness – 4 – It was pretty crowded when I went, but once you got your spot it was worth it. Must be a very popular place to eat, drink coffee, and/or study. I also came by late in the day. If we went earlier, it probably would have been easier to get a seat.
- Hours open – 2 – It closes at 5PM, or 7PM, depending on the day.
- Overall ranking – 33/40 – 3rd place
HUTZLER READING ROOM
- Climate – 5 – Never had a problem with it, but the Gilman Atrium is another story..
- Outlet accessibility – 4 – Sometimes the outlets don’t work, but there’s always a close one near every table.
- Noise level – 5 – Quite quiet.
- Lighting – 5 – On point.
- Table space and chair quality – 4 – When it comes to the Hut, you have to get over the irrational fear that you cannot study at the same table as a random stranger.
- Coffee accessibility – 2 – I have yet to really know Alkimia’s hours, and the distance between the Hut and Brody Cafe is just on the line of being and not being worth the walk.
- Emptiness – 3 – You’ll be able to find a seat, but it will be hard to find a completely empty table unless you come at an uncommon hour.
- Hours open – 5 – It’s open 24/7 during finals.
- Overall ranking – 33/40 – 2nd place
THE BUN SHOP
- Climate – 5 – Not an issue.
- Outlet accessibility – 4 – There are outlets near the desk I try and get facing the brick wall, and power strips for the long tables!
- Noise level – 5 – An even better coffeeshop quiet and vibe than Starbucks. Plus, the last time I was there, two cute little kids and their dad came in and they were singing and playing and running around, which actually made for a much-needed break and laugh.
- Lighting – 3 – It’s really dim, which can be bad if you’re not just doing computer work. But the desk I mentioned earlier is directly under a floor lamp, which is the best it gets lighting-wise.
- Table space and chair quality – 4 – There’s lots of space to spread out and cool teal chairs to sit in.
- Coffee accessibility – 6 – The cold brew is amazing, and I also approve of the Vietnamese iced coffee. Their pastries (the rotiboy, especially) are so good, and plus food and drink is around the same cost as Brody Cafe. So I gave it a 6.
- Emptiness – 4 – It’s nice to get off campus during finals season because you get to leave the Hopkins bubble, and study spots are more prevalent. There’s a peak in crowdedness at the Bun Shop, but usually not enough to make conditions unworkable. If you plan on spending the day in the Bun Shop, just take an early JHMI, set up camp at a good seat, and you’ll be set.
- Hours open – 5 – It’s open till 3AM, which is about as good as it gets!
- Overall ranking – 36/40 – 1st place