The Insider’s Guide to Exams

December at Harvard means one thing: finals. For the last three weeks of the semester, students spend the majority of their time writing final papers, finishing final projects, and studying for their impending final exams. We’re lucky in that we have a full week of “reading period,” during which there are no formal classes or exams and students are given time to crunch down.

If that sounds stressful…it’s because it is. It’s hard to deny that finals period is the most intense part of the semester – the libraries fill up, Houses have a “zero-parties” policy, and the line for coffee at Starbucks is consistently 15 minutes long. Luckily, though, I’ve spent (er, wasted) much of my reading period testing out different study spots, coffee shops, and snack stops in an attempt to find my perfect combination. Given my extensive research (glad to see reading period was good for something!), I’ve developed a list of my favorite exam period standbys. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I am a non-library, coffee shop studier who loves Dunkin’ Donuts and pizza from Noch’s. Hopefully my bias doesn’t come through too strongly, though!

Best Libraries:

  1. Widener – Great for the “I go to Harvard” feeling. The main study room is really official looking, with long tables and lots of students doing seemingly important things. Plus, the silent study rule makes it a great place to crank out some work.
  2. Lamont – While it gets really packed over reading period, Lamont being open 24 hours makes it a convenient spot for late-night cramming. Misery loves company!
  3. Law School library – Conveniently right off the Yard, and stocked with free coffee! Hard to beat, but few undergrads.

Best Non-Library Study Spots:

  1. Starbucks in the Garage – While there are two Starbucks locations in the Square, the one in the Garage is much larger and has big tables and booths. Constant supply and coffee and snacks if you need them! Downside is that if you stay more than an hour, you start hearing their holiday playlist on repeat.
  2. Crema Café – A small, local coffee and sandwich shop with a great upstairs seating area. Again, delicious snacks at the ready! There’s no wifi, though, which can be good or bad, depending on the type of work you need to get done.
  3. Quincy Dining Hall – The Houses leave their dining halls open at night so students can hang out and study. Quincy’s is the best for serious work – big tables, good lighting, and comfortable chairs.

Best Coffee and Tea (for you caffeine-addicted readers…)

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts – Ok, ok. Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t actually have the best coffee, if you’re looking for quality of bean or any sort of real measure of quality. Being from New England, though, I’m biased! The guy at the DD up the street knows my order.
  2. Crema Café – Great home brews and cute coffee cups! They make the drinks to order, so everything’s really fresh.
  3. Starbucks – I hate to admit it, but it’s true. It’s hard to beat Starbucks in terms of convenience, tastiness, and options.
  4. Burdick’s – Admittedly, Burdick’s is known for it’s hot chocolate, not it’s coffee, but their mochas are delicious. The dark hot chocolate is especially tasty, as well! Small tables, but they have wifi – good place to check your email or edit a paper.

Best Brain-Boosting Snacks

  1. Slice of pizza from Noch’s – Make sure you ask for Sicilian! Cheesy and delicious, and made even better when used as a break from studying. My recommendation is to get a slice of whatever’s coming out of the oven.
  2. Smoothie from Boloco – One of the three burrito places in the Square, but this one has a plethora of smoothie options that are both sweet and filling.
  3. Bagel from Au Bon Pain – Best part about ABP is that it’s open til 2 am. Anything with sugar and carbs is going to be super helpful getting through that late night of studying!
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