High achievers hit repeat on Taylor Swift, new survey finds

Taylor Swift claims the top spot for college students with high GPAs, according to College Rover. The artist has been releasing music for the better part of two decades, and her massively successful Eras Tour is ongoing. (Associated Press)

When students hit the books, those with the highest GPAs tend to hit shuffle on Taylor Swift.

A recent survey conducted by College Rover found that 30% of college students with GPAs of 3.5 or higher opt for Taylor Swift on their study playlists. Swift is also the top artist overall for females surveyed.

When BYU student and self-proclaimed Swiftie Mali Lopez heard the survey results, she said she wasn’t surprised.

“Anyone with a brain would know she’s good,” Lopez said.

Lopez said most of her high-achieving friends are Taylor Swift fans. Swift’s discography spans multiple genres and depths, reaching “Shakespearean levels,” Lopez said, though casual listeners may only be familiar with her more digestible radio singles.

For study sessions, Lopez said she prefers to listen to Swift’s 2020 “folklore” because it’s “super Zen.” If song lyrics become too distracting, she said she turns to instrumental covers of Swift’s music.

Spotify curates a playlist of Taylor Swift’s top songs and deep cuts. Swift is currently the number 2 artist on the streaming service. (Spotify)

BYU junior Daniel Jenkins said he also prefers “folklore” and instrumentals for studying.

According to the survey, instrumental and classical music are the most popular study music genres among students earning top grades. 

A study by Alessandra S. Souza and Luis Carlos Leal Barbosa published in the Journal of Cognition suggests that despite student claims that instrumental music helps them focus, instrumental music’s impact on memory and cognition is negligible.

The study further suggests that music with lyrics has a negative effect on study sessions. Most students are aware of this phenomenon. 

“Faulty metacognition about music’s interfering effect cannot fully explain why students often listen to music while studying,” the study said.

For many students, music is a way to decompress, boost their mood and get motivated. 69% of those surveyed said they listened to music to make studying more enjoyable, according to College Rover.

BYU student Trevor Garrity said music keeps him engaged and prevents boredom while studying. He reported listening to music during about 70% of the study hours he logs.

Many students turn to instrumental music while studying. Spotify curates study playlists with low valence, slower tempos and quieter volume, according to College Rover. (Spotify)

Not all homework assignments or music genres are created equal, however. Garrity said he listens to movie scores, soundtracks and classical music for high-intensity study sessions. When he’s chipping away at busy work, he said he can tune into “normal music,” including his favorite alternative and pop artists.

Senior Kenzie Lowry said she studies to music about half the time, depending on the task and level of background noise. She usually turns to lo-fi music, which doesn’t have words.

Music minor Emma Lambert says she rarely, if ever, listens to music while she studies. She loves music but is too distracted by it to be productive, she said.

“I feel like everybody’s different when it comes to what helps them with their study habits,” Lambert said.

Even Swifties sometimes step back from their favorite artist to buckle down and get the grade.

Jenkins said he sometimes needs to study sans Taylor Swift because he “always end(s) up getting distracted.”

Swift’s music makes him want to sing and dance, Jenkins said, which doesn’t always mesh well with a serious study session or pressing project.

Swift is Spotify’s number two artist worldwide. Her 2019 song “Cruel Summer” is currently sitting comfortably at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.

“I think although she’s the biggest artist in the world, she’s still somehow an underrated artist,” Jenkins said. “I wish people would go deeper into her discography.”

Swift announced at her Aug. 9 sold-out Los Angeles Eras Tour concert that she would be releasing “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” Oct. 27. 

“This is my most FAVORITE re-record I’ve ever done because the 5 From The Vault tracks are so insane,” Swift posted on her Instagram

Swift will continue to tour through Europe, South America and North America into 2024.

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