Ken Blanchard once said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
If you are an advocate for college study groups, you probably agree with this statement.
However, if you have been in your fair share of bad groups, you also know that one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.
That is why it is imperative that you choose the right people for your study group. Then, you must also regularly check in with the group to ensure it is functioning properly.
Here are 10 factors to check for in your college study group. If your current group doesn’t have these 10 qualities, consider leaving and forming one that does.
1. Study partners, not just friends
When putting together a college study group, it is a natural instinct to select all of your closest buddies and study together. That makes for a friend group, not a study group. Chances are, you’ll spend more time finding ways to have fun than you will studying, which is contrary to the purpose of the group.
Ask these two questions before selecting your study mates:
- Does this student show some promise in class?
Hint: You want students who interact with the professors and other students, take notes, and bring something new to the table.
- Are they open to sharing their knowledge?
Hint: You want people who believe in give-and-take, and are willing to collaborate. Leave out the egotistic and narrow-minded students.
2. Mutual respect and good behavior
When you don’t understand a certain topic, you don’t want to study with people who laugh at you; you want people who are willing to help you learn.
When you say something the rest of the group doesn’t agree with, you don’t want to be judged and excluded; you want study mates who can hold a healthy debate and disagree without being disrespectful.
A bunch of jerks, even if they are smart jerks, can never form a harmonious college study group. So, it’s best to check for empathy and decency in your study partners, above all else.
3. Not too many members
There is a reason you are not studying with the entire class, but making a small group instead. You want to keep that small group small. When too many people butt heads, there are more problems created than solutions reached.
Anything more than five or six members in a study group is too many. If more people want to join, form two or three separate study groups that can meet and discuss their progress once every month. This way, you can exchange valuable information without creating chaos.
4. Each member takes equal responsibility
One or two people do all the explaining while the others take notes—does your college study group look something like this?
If it does, you are in a toxic study group. You are either only giving without gaining much, or taking without giving anything back. A study group like this won’t last long. One party will start to feel exploited, while the other gets greedy, or worse, entitled.
To make sure this doesn’t happen:
- In each session, divide responsibilities equally.
- Each member should play to their strengths and contribute significantly to the group.
- Each member should also be acutely aware of their weak points, so that they know where they need help.
- At the end of each week or each month, review how much everyone feels they’ve gained and given to the group (this ratio should be close to 50-50).
- Weed out lazy participants who just want to leech off others without any hard work.
5. Clear goals and objectives for each session
“Studying” is a vague aim. If you are gathering together with objectives like this, you are likely getting confused and achieving very little in the way of your goals. This is why precise intentions are required for each study session.
Let’s say you are studying for the entire semester. Here’s how to go about planning your sessions:
- Form a list of everything that needs to be studied. Go chapter-wise or topic-wise.
- Assign members to each specific topic. That member will be in charge of studying that topic in-depth, and then explaining it to others.
- Set dates on your calendar for each study session.
- Add objectives to each assigned study date. The people responsible for studying the topics should be prepared on specific dates.
- Distribute objectives in a way so that your bigger goal (finishing the syllabus) is achieved in time.
6. Unwavering focus
When classmates gather together, it’s tempting to start chatting. The gossip could be about anything from a new professor, to a new Netflix show. As long as it is not about the subject you are studying, it is only a distraction. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, 30 minutes are lost!
Here are some tips to maintain focus:
- Sessions should last between one and three hours. If it’s less than one hour, you’ll be rushed, and if it’s more than three hours, you’ll lose focus and will be more likely to goof off.
- Make it a priority to bring back everyone’s attention to the matter at hand if you feel like the discussion is going off-track. Multiple reminders should keep everyone in check.
- Get everything off your chest before you start studying, save it for the end of the session, or study for an hour or two, then take a small break in between to discuss random things. Choose the strategy that works best for your group.
Studying doesn’t have to be completely boring. The role of lighthearted chitchat to cheer everyone up in the midst of an intense study session is undeniable. But, it has to be done responsibly, so that you don’t waste all of your study time.
7. Punctuality and regularity
Keep count of who shows up on time and attends each session. Certainly, don’t be a stickler about this, as that kind of authoritarian behavior can be annoying to everyone. But it is important to watch out for folks who are in the group just for the namesake.
These are students who regularly miss study sessions and show up an hour late every time they attend. You might find that they are particularly enthusiastic about group studies when an assignment is due, or an exam is nearing. These people are dead weight. Steer clear of them if you want a productive college study group.
8. You learn something new
Why study in a group if it begets the same results as studying alone?
The best feature of a college study group is exposure to different, uniquely talented people. Maybe one person is a master of public speaking, while another has got the perfect trick for writing an assignment. It could also be something as basic as paying more attention in class and taking notes.
When study mates are ready to share their secrets, everyone learns something new. While this is not a compulsory criteria, it sure is the mark of an excellent study group. Count yourself lucky if you are part of such a group.
9. Saves time and effort
One of the primary reasons why college students form study groups is to cut back on the time and effort it would take to tackle a complex problem all alone. But, if it turns out that the opposite is happening, then you are in the wrong group.
It also might happen that despite being in a good group, it takes more time and effort to prepare for the study group meetings, attend them, and process all that you learned afterward. If that is the case for you, try studying alone and see if that seems more efficient to you. Different people have different study styles. Not everyone is cut out for group studies.
10. Works effectively for everyone
Maybe one member wants to grasp chapter 10, another wants to nail an assignment, while yet another member wants to polish their math skills.
With whatever goal each member joined the study group, at the end of a stipulated period, those aims should be achieved. If you end up right where you started after 12 weeks of rigorous group studies, you are doing something wrong.
While all of the above-mentioned points are crucial to a well-functioning study group, the tell-tale sign of a great group lies in your feelings after interacting with them.
Do you feel drained, or replenished?
Were you productive, or did you waste your time? You already know what the answers to these questions should be. Your heart is your best guide.
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