Unwell Student

Unwell Student April 19, 2018

It has been a while since I’ve made a parody song, but recently I found inspiration to make the above song – a parody of the hit song “Unwell” by Matchbox 20 – in a Faculty and Staff Learning Community that I’ve been facilitating this academic year. Our focus has been on wellness and metacognition. We started off by reading My Freshman Year together. If you’re not familiar with it, that book is an ethnography of student life and culture at a large state university, written by an anthropologist who went “undercover” and enrolled as a first-year student and then documented what she experienced and saw around her.

Over the course of the year, we read a lot and shared experiences and insights related to the ways that students learn and the impact of overall wellness on their learning. We saw that there is a great deal of research about what approaches to studying and learning are ineffective, but this information is not reaching students (or faculty or staff, for that matter) to the extent that it should. As a result, students persist in habits of study that may have served them at least passably through high school, but which will certainly not continue to do so at more advanced levels of education. And so rather than try to discover something new, the group thought it would be better to brainstorm about ways to reach a wider audience with what is already known. And so we produced some materials like infographics and study habit reflection quizzes, and had ideas for others, such as a game based on student life (indeed, it could be a version of the board game LIFE), in which one might get a short-term boost from pulling an all-nighter, but then have to skip two turns, which might convey the point that certain things like overnight cramming can provide a short-term benefit, but at a long-term cost that outweighs that benefit.

And of course, I started thinking about making a parody song, as you might expect if you know me. And once it dawned on me that the perfect song for the purpose was “Unwell” by Matchbox 20, the rest came together fairly easily.

I am including the lyrics to the song below, but they are also in the song video itself. Let me know what you think – and if you think it will be useful to them, please do share it with students you know, if for no other reason than to start a conversation about study habits, sleep, and related matters.


Unwell Student

All day staring at the textbook, Finding
you can’t concentrate at all
All night heard your conscience telling you
That you should get some sleep
Because tomorrow’s big exam is coming
Hold on
Feeling like you’re headed for a breakdown
And I’ll tell you why


Pull all-nighters you’ll be a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But keep this up and pretty soon you’ll see
How much you need to sleep

Pull all-nighters you’ll be a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But come exam week maybe then you’ll find
How sleep affects your mind, I’m…


thinking ‘bout low grades you’re getting
Cramming wears upon the brain
But you know, this way to study’s just not working
Before you knew no better
Now it makes you think there must be something wrong with you

Think of all the hours wasted
Find better ways to use your mind


Seems you’re walking in your sleep
Sleepless nights have caught up with you
Your success will slip away


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