By Payton Carns

Now that the University of Louisville students are almost a month in, the fall semester is coming at them with full force. 

Unit exams and essay drafts replaced basic syllabus quizzes and introductory “get to know you” activities. The adjustment period ran its course and with the drop-add period behind them, students are struggling to stay on track.

Now that the expectations have increased, balancing an academic and social life on campus has proven difficult for both first-time students and upperclassmen as try to figure out fool-proof ways to stay motivated and successfully study. 

Everyone has heard the typical tips on how to do well on an exam: get good sleep, eat a balanced breakfast, and take short breaks. However, some students have discovered more unique ways to keep themselves motivated while working and studying long hours.

Hyperpop and a sweet little treat

Take senior Sara Mote, for example. When she’s having difficulty staying focused during a study session, she’ll hop on Spotify and play hyperpop music. This contradicts the oft-advised tip of listening to classical or Lofi tunes.

“[I’ll] even [listen to], like, Mario Kart music when I’m cramming or need to get a paper done quick,” Mote said. “I feel like it helps my brain move faster.”

Two Spotify-made study playlists, featuring “hyperpop classics” and iconic Mario Kart tunes.

Mote also likes to reward themselves with what she calls a “sweet treat” post-study sessions and exams.

“A chocolate chunk cookie or ice cream always works,” they said.

Mote is not alone in this tactic. Freshman Olivia Cecil also believes in a sugary reward system, favoring Einstein Bros bagels and ice cream from Dairy Kastle.

“[I get] anything that I don’t eat every day,” she said.

An afternoon study set-up with a side of spearmint gum and an apple cider donut.

Psychology and gum

Prior to her exams, Cecil also makes sure to chew the same flavor of gum while studying and taking the test. 

“I make sure to study with Orbit sweet mint gum and chew it during my exam,” she said. “I had a science teacher in middle school tell me to do it and I really have no idea if it works, but it’s good enough for me.”

As it turns out, there is psychological merit behind this strategy. Researchers tested 224 undergraduate students from St. Lawrence University and found that “a burst of gum-chewing” before a test improved the student’s performance. 

Not only should students chew the gum while studying, but chewing it prior to the test can increase heart rate and blood pressure, sending more blood to the brain. Essentially, gum-chewing “warms up” the brain in order for it to give its best performance.

Although senior Sydney Phillips sticks to the tried and true study methods, she did learn a few odd strategies from taking a cognitive psychology course here at U of L. This included the gum trick and other similar tactics.

“I learned you should also study in the same classroom you’re going to take the test in,” Phillips says, “so that your brain associates the information with that classroom.”

There’s a reason specific study methods are more common; students wouldn’t use them if they didn’t work. However, academics look different for everyone, and studying is not a one-size-fits-all activity. It’s all about trial and error and figuring out what will produce the most success.

So if the workload is piling up and students’ old study habits are not cutting it, try something new. You could consider blasting some hyperpop, chewing a piece of gum, or taking a trip to the classroom — oh, and don’t forget a sweet treat afterward!

File Photo // Payton Carns, The Louisville Cardinal