7 Tips for Studying at a Bar


Studying for finals? Tired of the usual studying spots? Try studying at a bar! I did it for the first time this weekend (the things I’ll do for the sake of Onward State), and I was quite productive.

Be warned, though, that there are some risks and dangers involved with studying at a bar. Below are seven tips for doing work at the drinking establishment of your choice.

1. Choose the right bar

Bar selection is perhaps the most important step. You’ll want a bar that has long hours, internet access, chairs and tables, an environment you’re comfortable with, and, most of all, is actually open. Attempting to study at Indigo? Probably a bad idea, unless you can only study at 11 p.m. on a Saturday while listening to pulsating dubstep. I chose to study at Zeno’s, a fine institution. No regrets.

2. Be prepared

You never know what’s going to happen when you go to do work at a bar. There could be no open computer outlets. The internet could stop working. You could forget about your work and just day drink for five hours. To stay productive, come prepared. If you like listening to music while studying, make sure it’s all available to you offline. Come to the bar with a fully-charged laptop and an idea of what you’re going to study/write. If you don’t have a game plan, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the dangerous trap of day drinking, the ultimate productivity-killer.

3. Bring headphones

You’ll want to be able to focus on your own sounds at one point or another while studying at a bar. While I was at Zeno’s, the bartenders had FX on the TV, playing Elf, Step Brothers, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall back to back to back. All great films, sure, but not what I want to watch while trying to concentrate on school work (at least not until next semester, when I take that class on maritime prostitution). Bring some nice headphones so you can drown out external noise (especially when it gets busy).

4. Pace yourself

Chances are you will be tempted to drink something while studying at a bar. That is, after all, part of the appeal. Just keep in mind how long you will be studying there. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Finishing a pitcher of PBR within an hour is a great way to start a night out. It’s a shitty way to start a study session, though. Stay smart.

5. Don’t invite your friends who are done with finals assholes

Remember the tip I just said about pacing yourself? If you invite friends with no work to do and/or no morals to accompany you on your studying, then you can throw the previous tip right out the window. One of my friends came along with me to study at the bar–except he was already done with all of his work for the semester and tried to encourage everyone to buy me drinks. He’s the worst. If your friends are dicks, don’t let them study with you at a bar.

6. Remember that bars start to get crowded at around 5:30 on weekends

If you want to get prime study time at a bar, then get there before everyone else. It’ll be more quiet, more intimate, and you won’t stick out like a sore thumb as the only guy with a laptop at a bar on a Saturday night. One of the things that separates bars from other study locations (other than access to alcohol) is the fact that the majority of the people at a bar aren’t there to study. That means that it will become much more distracting as more people (and even live entertainment) show up. Be prepared to either leave once it starts to get crowded or just deal with it.

7. Have a backup plan

Inevitably, something will not work out as planned. Maybe you won’t get any work done because you ran into someone you know. Maybe you’ll be roped into drinking too much and not getting a damn thing accomplished. Maybe there’s an Arrested Development marathon on the TV. Whatever the reason, give yourself a work cushion. I gave myself a whole day after writing a paper in a bar to edit it, to write more of it, or to completely trash it if it’s garbage (heed Hemingway’s advice: write drunk, edit sober). We’ll see how it turns out.

All in all, a bar is actually a pretty decent place to study. Just follow my tips, don’t get sloppy drunk, and you should have a great experience too. Oh, and if you’re not 21, then most of this post is completely useless for you until you’re of age. Sorry for making you read my entire post before telling you that!*

*Disclaimer: I’m not actually sorry.

Photo By: Shawn Inglima

About Author

Evan Kalikow co-founded Onward State in November 2008 with Davis Shaver and Eli Glazier. Having previously served as a Writer, Editor, Standards Editor, and Community Manager, Evan is now a proud alumnus of both Onward State and Penn State. He was also named "Person of the Year" by Time Magazine in 2006.


  1. Dennis McNamara on

    lol well done.  this comment i’m leaving now is more substantive than any of the work i accomplished at Zeno’s saturday

  2. lol noober 

    I am so glad I am coming up for this finals week I better see you at the bars before your finals

    <3 paul

  3. Zeno’s is an ok place to study, but be forewarned that the wifi there is crap and gives out a lot. So don’t plan on any work where an internet connection is required.

  4. If you’re dumb enough to study at a bar then you’re probably a frat bro and are going to fail your finals anyways.

  5. Bars are less busy during the day during finals week than the library. Its a lot less distracting… and I’m going to pass my finals, thank you.

  6. i barely studied for finals, yet i graduated with two degrees (BS’, not fake BA degrees), SHC, and a GPA of over 3.8

    the best study strategy is to not be stupid.

    i’m not making up my body of work either; i’ve got no reason to lie about it

  7. you’re such a hipster, evan. now all the other state college hipsters are gonna start studying/ reading john grisham books in bars as well. THANKS ALOT!!!!!

  8. When I read the title I was going to post: Rule #1 should be always study at Zeno’s. The author beat me to it!

  9. Use the Corner Room wifi. You get great coverage in Zeno’s and it’s more reliable. Even the staff members will recomend doing this.

  10. Sometimes I’m successful with that approach, but my experience is it’s only maybe slightly less sucky than Zeno’s wifi.