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College Advice: How to Work On Group Projects

I understand the logic behind group projects. They help you learn how to work in a group and how to work with different types of people. In theory, they allow for a lot of lessons learned. In practice, however–especially in college–they're not as practical as they seem. If you've never tried to organize time outside of class to meet up with your group...wait for it. It's impossible to align everyone's schedules, especially at a commuter based school. However, despite the trials and tribulations of group projects, they're possible.

1. Use your designated class time

This is seriously the biggest part of group projects, especially in college. Since working outside of class seems nearly impossible most of the time, you have to make the most of your in class work time so you can talk to each other face to face and really work out the nitty gritty details to create a solid outline for your projects. If you have assigned group work on a day, dear god, just show up to class. There's nothing worse you could do for your group (or your grade) than just not show up on a day where there's designated time to work on your project.

2. Set up a group message and actually communicate

Make sure everyone exchanges phone numbers and created a group message on your phones so you can stay in contact at all times, in case of emergencies. If someone misses a group project work day, say something in the group message and make sure that they know what they missed. Use it to communicate about sources you've found, information you read about that might be of use to the project, or even just let your other group members know if you won't be there for a day. It's easier than trying to e-mail each other or find each other on Facebook to message them. Make it easy for yourself so you don't have to jump through hoops to stay in contact. 

3. Create a Google Doc

Google Docs saves lives when it comes to group projects. Create a master document and invite your group mates to work on it with you. This way, everyone is able to work on it at once and can see changes in real time. This is a great place to store progress to catch up members who might not be present as often. This is also a great way to collaborate on a piece when you're all in your remote locations and not huddled around a computer on campus.

4. Delegate

As a control freak, I still recognize the act of delegating. You're not meant to complete everything in a group project, so utilize your group members and delegate. If you're in a group of four and a project has four parts, work on the outline and general idea together and then split up to each do one separate part.  That way, no one person is doing the entire project and everyone will know their part because they completed it. It's always best to check each other's work as well, not only for errors, but so you're familiar with the material as well. It is still your project!

5. Trust your partners

Look, we've all been stuck in terrible groups before, but sometimes you just have to put your trust in your partners. Do your work to your best ability and make sure that your professors sees your handwork. Even if the end result is very much a collaborative effort, you're still graded on your individual effort. You just have to hope that your partners feel the same way. And there's nothing wrong with trying to keep your group motivated, either. Remind them of deadlines, encourage adding onto the project or practicing a presentation or whatever might relate to your project. 


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