Group Projects Can be a Living Hell -- but They Don't Have to Be

If you’re a college student you may or may not be familiar with the sometimes dreaded, and sometimes loved term, “group project.”

If you are familiar with the term, you've probably participated in a group project for one of your classes. Luckily, I never had to do any group projects until my last semester of college. What that meant, however, was that throughout my four years at school, I got to listen to all the horror stories my friends had to say about group projects. Horror stories that included one friend who had to do an entire group project herself and another friend whose group waited until the very last minute to start their project.

Hearing about these miserable group projects my friends had to endure made me want to be included in a group who would get things done and would work as hard as I would to get an A in the class. That's why as soon as my professor said to my Public Relations Campaign class, that for the whole semester we would be working in the same groups, I knew that I had to choose my group wisely. I am forever grateful for the group that I ended up choosing. Not only were all my partners just as hardworking as I am, but everyone did their job and did it on time.

One of the things that I have learned about the group project process is that you definitely want to pick a single person to be the leader. My group chose App State senior Mary Hamilton to be our group leader, and I can’t express how good of a choice that was. Hamilton does such an amazing job at motivating the entire group and making sure that we are all working towards one common goal. Having a group leader who keeps track of due dates and plans times where the whole group can meet to work is essential. Having a leader made it easier for our group to know when a due date was coming up, which let us know what we should work on, when we should be working on it, and when we should be done working on it. Another plus that came from having a designated group leader is that we always had a person who was in charge of printing out things and turning them in, which knocked out any potential confusions on who had to turn things in, and eliminated the possibility of forgetting to submit an assignment.

Another piece of advice that I have when it comes to working on group projects is again taking note of any deadlines and making it a goal to finish any assignments a couple of days before the actual due date. Completing your work before the due date allows time for your group to send it into the teacher, get it to proofread, get the mistakes back, and still have time to fix those mistakes.

Another piece of advice that I have is to find a group who you don’t mind spending a lot of time with. When it came to our group project, on average, we spent about seven hours together each week. Seven hours can feel like a long time or a really long time depending on who you are with.

Having a group who you get along with, and enjoy being around, makes things better in every way. Another essential is finding a group that is equally balanced.

“I think the most essential thing when finding a good group for group projects is finding people who balance you out. I think the balance of people is what makes a group projects less painful and keep the productivity up,” said Olivia Hildreth, a member of my PR Campaigns group.

Another important thing to note about group projects is being able to think of potential roles in the group, what role would suit you best, and who would be the best at which role. Personally, I know that I like to take charge, but I also know that I am able to listen to others and take direction well. When our group project first started, I initially wanted to be the group leader. However, from the first moment we all met together as a group, Hamilton also expressed interest in the role. From the beginning, she had great ideas on how our group could be successful. After listening to those ideas, I knew that Hamilton was perfect for the leader role. I was able to put aside my pride, and I did what was best for our group. Being able to recognize what your strengths and weaknesses as a group member, and thinking as part of a group and not as an individual allows for the best outcome when it comes to the group project process.

“I know I’m more of a procrastinator when it comes to projects, so I need to be in groups with people who are more proactive,” said Hildreth. Being part of a group that had some individuals who are good at motiving others allowed for Hildreth to also be just as motivated which allowed her to become a key asset in the success of our group.

Group projects are hard and can be one of the most stressful aspects of college, but taking the time to find the perfect people to be in a group with is important -- and makes your life way easier in the long run. I love my group, I love the girls that I work with, and they make getting an A in a super hard class seem plausible. Fingers crossed we do well on our project!