Is it just us, or is there something decidedly dreadful about group projects? The mention of it alone can be enough to send a shiver up your spine. Not that there’s anything wrong with working alongside other students to achieve a common goal – it’s just that, often, it seems like group projects reveal an uncomfortable dynamic between the students, who will stop at nothing for a good grade, and those who couldn’t care less. Then, there are the students, who’ll pull every tactic in the book to “ghost” their responsibilities concerning the project, as well as the ones who get their kicks from micromanaging everyone else. It’s enough to drive anyone up the wall!
Needless to say, tensions can run high when you’re a college student stuck in the middle of a group project. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Call us crazy, but it is possible to create a harmonious relationship with every member of your group project – yes, even the student who is the polar opposite of you. And, if you play your cards right, you’ll pick up a few valuable skills that will come in handy throughout the rest of your college career and beyond.
In fact, handle your next group project like a pro, and you might change your attitude toward them… or maybe not. But, hey, at least you’ll be better equipped to deal with them the next time you’re roped into one. From forming friendships with your new project team members to aggressively documenting every last due date and team meeting, read on for uCribs’ 4 tips for slaying your upcoming group project.
Get to know your new group members.
If you attend a small college or university, you might already be on a first-name basis with most of your group members – if not, full-fledged friends. But, when you attend a college with tens of thousands of students, it’s more likely that the people you’re working with are relative strangers. Aside from class, you may not have even seen them around campus! So, it’s a good idea to break the ice before you get into the nitty gritty of your project by getting to know your group members. For students enrolled in smaller colleges, this goes for you, too – after all, you may typically run in the same social circles as your peers, but it’s likely that you haven’t yet worked together in a classroom setting.
The benefits of getting to know your new group members are three-fold. First, by forming relationships with them, you’ll feel more comfortable with regularly contacting them and resolving conflicts as they arise. Second, by familiarizing yourself with each peer’s learning style, you’ll be able to sniff out which duties will fit best with each student. For example, mathematically-inclined students can handle charts and graphs with ease, while those, who are more visually-inclined, might be best to structure the project’s Prezi or PowerPoint presentation. Finally, getting to know your new group members might open you up to a totally new and very unexpected friendship. College is all about balance, so why not inject a bit of fun into your group project if you hit it off with someone new?
Form a schedule at the outset.
Now that you’re familiar with who you’re working with, it’s time to form a schedule that everyone can stick to. As you know all too well, college life has a way of sucking up every minute of time you have to spare. For that reason, it’s crucial that your group decides upon dates and times to meet before other coursework, extracurricular obligations, and personal needs take over. A detailed plan of attack for your group project will be key to its completion and will help keep all members of the group on track – in other words, there will be no excuses for forgotten deadlines or skipped group meetings!
First, decide which planning tool you’ll use to keep track of due dates and meet-ups. A Google Calendar will work nicely, as will a free smartphone app like Any.do, a calendar app that also boasts integrated to-do lists, voice notes, and the ability to collaborate with other Any.do users. Once everyone’s downloaded the necessary app, you can get to scheduling. Depending on your project’s time frame, your professor might assign periodic due dates, or one major due date toward the end of the semester. Either way, be sure to schedule those dates and work from there to establish smaller due dates leading up to the big day – like, a day for everyone to arrange the finished product in a joint setting, etc. Your professor might not know of these micro-due dates, but you can bet that putting some in place will benefit both the results of the group project and your sanity.
Master the art of delegation.
Some of us are naturally inclined to perfectionism – and, there’s nothing wrong with continually striving for the best possible outcome. However, perfectionism goes hand-in-hand with control, which we don’t have, and is a surefire way to drive yourself a bit crazy throughout the duration of a group project. Aside from wreaking havoc on your otherwise balanced course load, it’s not fair to you – or anyone else – to do all the work when everyone is likely receiving the same grade. So, instead of letting the hard workers take full responsibility of the project, find an agreeable way to divide and conquer your tasks. That way, everyone can do their part to complete the final project, without any one person feeling taken advantage of. No luck with reaching an agreement? You can also enlist your professor to do the delegating for you, or at the very least, provide advice on your next steps.
In the same vein, you might want to consider designating one person the “team coordinator” of the assignment. You can slice and dice your duties any way you want, but what’s the point if certain individuals aren’t meeting deadlines or slacking off? Someone needs to keep the ship on course and ensure that all that tough delegation isn’t all for naught. Your team coordinator should be assertive enough to ask for peers’ work, verifying that the project is chugging along nicely. If you’re facing a semester-long project, this is even more key, as it will be super stressful to catch up on months of missing work if the team isn’t collectively putting in their fair share. (We’ve been there, and it’s no fun.)
Some assignments might lend themselves to procrastination better than others – like those one-page reading responses that stay fresh on your mind when completed the night before a discussion. Unfortunately, though, group projects do not fall under this category. Not only will putting off your project until the last minute stress you out beyond comprehension, but it’s also likely that you’ll have a harder time pulling all the pieces together, in order to provide your professor with a polished final product. And, do we need to remind you of the horrors that come from those all-night cram sessions? We think not!
Let’s face it: not every college student is great with time management. There’s a high probability that at least one of your peers won’t have their portion completed in time, which can potentially throw the entire project out of whack, especially if everyone else is also racing to finalize their contribution in the 11th hour. Do your future self a favor and make sure that everyone is on the same page about procrastination before you begin work on the project. Getting your work done ahead of time will allow you plenty of opportunity to fine-tune all the odds and ends before turning in the final product, or – in a worst-case scenario – the chance step in to assist another student if need be.
You’ve been at the mercy of group projects since grade school, and unfortunately, that won’t change while you’re in college. Instead of viewing group projects as an insurmountable task, start thinking of them as a good way to flex the skills you’re building in college—and to acquire new ones. It may sound hard to believe, but group projects can help you become a better student, future professional, and person by forcing you to develop razor-sharp communication skills, adhere to a strict schedule, and master the art of delegation. While we don’t expect you to anticipate future group projects with fervor, by following our tips, you can say that you gave it your all – and that’s a sure sign of progress, if you ask us!