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How to Survive a Group Project

Let’s face it: group projects suck. There’s always that one person who doesn’t want to do their fair share of the work, it can be difficult to find meeting times that work for everyone’s schedules, and they can be downright awkward if you don’t all get along. All in all, group projects are an unfortunate feature of a college education. But fear not! There are ways to make group projects less miserable. Here’s how to survive a group project.

Step 1: Choose the right team.

Of course, you don’t always have the option of choosing your own group, so in such cases you can skip over this step. But when you can control who’s in your group, it’s important to pick people that you know will get the job done. And yes, this sometimes means refusing to pair up with your best friend if you know that they’ll just distract you. Try to join a group of people that you know are serious about the class and will pull their weight in a group environment. Chances are, if you’re in a class that has multiple group assignments, you’ll be able to tell who is known for participating most in groups.

Step 2: Share contact information right away.

As soon as you know who will be in your group, swap contact information right away, even if you have several weeks to get the project done. Start a group chat or an email chain, if you think that would be helpful. Since it can be tricky for everyone to meet in person at the same time, having a digital means to communicate can make it easier to work on a project together when you physically can’t be together. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to start talking to your group members.

Step 3: Prepare as early as possible.

Now that you have everyone’s contact info, communication should be pretty easy. Whether you decide to meet in person right away or text each other, start planning out how you want to tackle the project. This is a good time to decide on your individual responsibilities. Decide who will do what for the project so each person can be held accountable for their piece. Also, figure out when each person will be available for meetings. If you wait too long to discuss schedules or even meet, you may find yourself in a situation where you only have a few days to finish a project but nobody is available to meet at the same time. Knowing when people will be busy ahead of time will prevent any last-minute struggle to find common meeting times.

Step 4: Make mini-deadlines.

If the project is particularly heavy, it may be easier to break it down into parts instead of trying to tackle it all at once. Or, if you want more  accountability in your group, it may be helpful to set deadlines for yourselves that are before the official deadline. For example, if you have a research project, you could plan to all have your research done by Monday, write your sections by Wednesday, meet for discussion on Thursday, and then present in class on Friday. It’ll also help you realize early on who is and isn’t doing their part of the work, and it’ll help you all work at the same pace to ensure no one falls behind or gets stuck.

Step 5: Do your fair share of the work!

Nobody likes a slacker in a group project. Don’t be that person. If you’re struggling to do your part, reach out to your group members or professor for help as soon as possible. Don’t wait until last minute to start, or else you may get stuck and not have enough time to get the answers you need. Ask questions as soon as possible!

Step 6: Communicate if any conflicts arise.

Unfortunately, you may come across a person who just doesn’t want to do their part of the work. If this happens, try to talk to that person. Ask if they might be struggling with the material or if they need help. If they aren’t doing the work because they simply don’t care, don’t do their work for them. Talk to your professor sooner rather than later if this issue arises, as they can either move you to a different group if the entire group seems to be slacking off, or they can talk to the individual slacker. It won’t be a fun experience for anyone, but it’s better than the feeling of shame you’ll feel if you have to turn in an unfinished project, or experiencing the unfairness of a person getting graded the same way for work they didn’t even do.

Hopefully these tips will help make your next group project a little less stressful. It is important to remember that most of your group members will probably be as miserable as you are, so do try to make the most out of it. If you can, try to make meeting times fun or do something to make the project somewhat interesting if you aren’t enamored by the course material already. Good luck!

Images: Thumbnail, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email mt-holyoke@hercampus.com.

Sarah Washington is a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College. She is from Wilbraham, Massachusetts. She is a prospective Sociology Major. Sarah's passions include social justice, increased visibility for multiracial individuals, feminism, and LGBT rights. Her other loves include makeup, writing, reading, and music.
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