Public Relations Today
Jayne Miller By Jayne Miller • October 5, 2015

Student Survival Guide: Group Project Edition


It’s possible that by now it’s happened to you. Your teacher has rattled off names, separating you into groups for the infamous group project. Five people, one objective, no turning back.

Here’s how to survive any group project thrown at you this year.

Say Hello

If you didn’t select your own groups, it’s possible you’ve been paired with complete strangers. Start with the obvious: say hello.

Before you start brainstorming and delegating, spend 5-10 minutes getting to know the people you’ll be working with. You can get a feel for group members by asking them how they like the course or perhaps why they elected to take it.

Other helpful questions for getting acquainted might include:

So how do you normally like to tackle group projects?
What’s your schedule like this semester?
What’s your major/what other classes are you taking right now?
How ‘bout those Jets?

Designate Roles

Leave every group project meeting with clear roles and responsibilities. If you decided the next step was to outline your project and research certain aspects of your topic - but you don’t know who is taking on each task - you’re not done with your meeting yet.

A quick hack to ensure you never walk away uncertain of your role is to designate a person in the group to tackle project logistics and management. This person would be the one to help set up meeting times and organize everyone’s roles and responsibilities. This person would also be tasked with ensuring that no meeting ends before everyone is clear on what they must tackle before the next group deadline.

Check In

It’s not the worst idea to check in with your group in between deadlines. Even if you don’t have a ton to report about how your share of the work is going, it’s a good opportunity to see if anyone needs help with their portion of the project. It’s also an opportunity to send a quick FYI around that all is going well on your end.

This type of communication doesn’t need to be formal. It can be a quick group message or text.

Periodic check-ins also serve as sort of an early warning system, making it easier to detect if your partners are hitting any obstacles in their work. You’ll be more likely to know if you need to adjust your timetable - or offer a helping hand - sooner.

Bring Study Snacks

Is this even a question? Study snacks. Be the teammate who brings the coffee or the muffins or the cookies to the library. A little treat is not only a gesture of good will, but a silver lining to any big cram session your team might be dreading.

Plus, if the treats are a hit, maybe someone else will step up and bring you a cappuccino next time.

Know That This is Temporary

Bad groups happen to good people. If you’re stuck with teammates who are making for a less-than-stellar experience, just remind yourself of how very temporary this is.

You have some options for dealing with particularly terrible groups. You can always seek guidance from your instructor if groupmates have been lax in following through.

If you (unfortunately) believe your partners might drop the ball in completing work, set deadlines with extra extra extra buffer room to ensure you still get everything together well in time. Try adding two days to your timeline just for putting everything together or for having teammates review what other group members have done. These checks and buffers will give you flexibility if someone shirks on the job.


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