The best study spots on campus


By Steffie Drucker

In your Intro to Psychology course, you may find yourself writing a response paper on whether people’s personalities, behavior, intelligence, etc. are determined by their genetics or the environment in which they live. A great way to determine which side of the argument you stand with is by trying to write your paper in various study spots.

Teeming with more than 43,000 students, there’s bound to be an array of different learning styles and study habits on campus. Fortunately, the University has hundreds of study spaces to accommodate us all.

Being new to the campus and, of course, new to college, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to find the perfect study spot for you. I think the best way is simply to experiment, trying different environments and keeping track of how each one affects your productivity.

Every study environment has different factors that contribute to your ability to get things done, including:

  • Equipment/resources. Working with a group? You might like to have a whiteboard, projector, or large TV to plug your laptop into. Low battery? Make sure there’s an abundance of outlets around you.
  • Noise level. This is a big one. Some people prefer the low din of keyboards clicking away and people chatting around them. Others, however, can focus better in a more silent environment.
  • Food and beverage. If you’re a snacker or need to stay hydrated while you work, that could eliminate various settings for you. Most study spots allow drinks as long as they’re covered, but some may be displeased if you bring along stinky, sticky, or loud snacks.
  • Hours. Not all locations are open for all-nighters.

So, where to begin? Illini Spaces. This web app, created by Technology Services and the University Library in September, allows users to find available study spaces based on these criteria and more — especially helpful during Finals Week when the task of claiming a study spot becomes a bit more competitive.

Illini Spaces will tell you what resources are available and may even have a picture to give you an idea of what the space looks like, but that’s not the same as getting a description from someone who’s experienced it firsthand. Below, I’ve listed the pros and cons of my three favorite major study spots.

Ikenberry Commons (“The Ike”)

Pros: I lived in the Six Pack freshman year and practically lived in the Ike. You have to eat in the Ike anyway, so it’s convenient to bring homework along and get some work done, too. Plus, the facility is utilized mainly by those living in the surrounding residence halls, so you’ll almost always find one of your friends to sit with.

Like most of the places listed here, you can choose to work in a quiet environment (in the Ike libraries) or with some background noise (near the Caffeinator). There are outlets everywhere, too, since it’s such a new building, and some rooms have large whiteboards that are great for group work.

The Ike is open 24 hours, which is convenient if you live close because you don’t have to worry about walking home late. I-57 and Caffeinator are there to keep you nourished, so feel free to set up and keep working all night long.

Cons: Being so close to where so many freshmen live means you’ll probably run into lots of people you know and get distracted. This also means that the Ike can be pretty crowded at peak times, but you should always be able to find somewhere to work and it empties out after a certain hour.

Having the Caffeinator and 57 right there can also drain your time and focus, and leave the Ike a bit messy when people don’t clean up after themselves.

The Undergraduate Library (UGL)

Pros: This library is underground, which is pretty cool. The negative first floor (down one set of stairs) is for group study and those who like a little background noise. This floor is also home to the Media Commons, a great resource for working on multimedia projects, and group study rooms you can reserve that are equipped with whiteboards and TV screens.

An Espresso Royale is located just outside the study area, as well as a tunnel with vending machines that sell snacks and supplies (i.e. highlighters and notecards), and connects the UGL to the Main Library. This tunnel is especially useful in the winter and late at night, since it’ll get you from inside the UGL to the bus stop just outside the Main Library without having to go outside.

The negative second or ground floor is for silent study. The tables on either floor are spacious, allowing you to spread out with your laptop, textbooks and more. The UGL also has loanable calculators and chargers in case you forgot yours at home.

Cons: The doors. Every Illini understands this and you will soon, too. The UGL also tends to be strict about food. You may think you can sneak it but there is a security guard patrolling the library that won’t hesitate to reprimand.

The UGL is a popular spot, so it can be tricky finding a space, especially during finals. I find I’m most productive at the UGL, but it can be distracting when I run into friends so I tend to stay on the silent floor.

You can also prevent having wandering eyes; I like the quiet, focused atmosphere but some of my friends complain that the library is too drab, especially since there’s limited natural light as the library is underground.

Illini Union

Pros: Many different environments to choose from, so you can work wherever best suits you. If you like background noise — the chatter of other students, the sound of cream being steamed for a latte — then the Courtyard Café could be the place for you. If you’re like me and prefer a quieter environment, the Pine Lounge offers beauty, large desks, and an abundance of outlets.

The Union also has plenty of couches and comfy armchairs, and even a computer lab in the basement if you’d like to give your back a break and leave your laptop at home.

Also, a finals pro tip: if you’re having trouble finding a quiet place to study or need to be away from your roommate for a few days so you can stay up all night to study, the Illini Union Hotel rents rooms to students during Finals Week at a reduced rate.

Cons: The couches and armchairs are also popular for napping, so you may find yourself trying to study amongst snoring or fighting your own eyelids to stay open.

The Courtyard Café also frequently hosts events in the evening, so they’ll sometimes ask everyone to get up and move somewhere else so that they can rearrange the tables. I find the Courtyard Café’s tables to be a bit small, so I prefer it for short breaks between classes or club meetings.

Now, these are among my top study spaces, but there’s plenty more to explore! Grainger Engineering Library is a huge hub for students across campus, regardless of their major. There are also quiet, outdoor oases at Lincoln Hall.

Sometimes it’s best to study at the source of your learning: most campus buildings are left open in the evening so you can study in the classroom where you actually learn the material.

There are countless coffee shops around campus that offer good music, comfortable seating, friendly staff, and great tastes and smells. Join floormates and study in one of the various residence hall lounges or even stay in your own room.

Hopefully this has provided you with a starting point for study spot experimentation and the tools necessary for finding yourself a good fit.

Steffie is a junior in Media. 

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