I know studying definitely makes the top of your list of least favorite activities in college, and I don’t blame you. But grades are kinda sorta important and if you want to do well, you’re eventually going to have to study at some point. You can’t just keep avoiding your studies like they’re the plague. As you join study groups, knowing how to handle them will only help you learn better. Study groups are really beneficial in college if you know how to form effective ones, and this is how you do just that.
Start your study group as soon as possible. “I recommend starting low key and starting early. Start by dividing up low-stakes responsibilities for class, share notes and decide on a tech platform for sharing thoughts, resources and notes,” University of Texas at Austin educational psychology professor Melissa Andrews said. “While you do these low-stakes things, you can set up a working group that will actually be effective when you need it for those high-stakes tasks later in the course.” If you wait until the last minute, everyone will just freak out about the upcoming exam the next day and nobody will actually study. The last thing you want is your peers running around like headless chickens, trying to figure out where and when to meet. If you get an early start, coming up with strategies for effective studying is easier than if you were to wait until the last minute. You have more time to get used to the material and ask questions.
It’s pretty important to plan your study group with people who actually have the same goals for the class as you. It will be difficult to have a successful study sesh when half of the group shoots for an A while the others don’t mind getting a C. “The most common mistake is people choosing to study with friends, or the person sitting beside them in class, instead of others with similar goals. Eventually, the difference in goals ends up creating inefficiency and conflict in the group,” Andrews said. Studying with people who want to do as well as you will motivate the group and help keep everyone on track. “Choose 2-5 people that you think you can study well with and always come to the study group prepared and not completely lost. Make sure to choose people who you don’t think you’ll keep getting off topic when studying,” UT-Austin junior Dana Faran said. There will be plenty of time to hang out with your BFF later, so include people in your study group who will actually contribute to a learning environment.
Don’t Be Afraid To Take Charge
Okay, let’s face it–someone needs to step up and be a leader in the group. Without someone to guide the study group, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t really get much done. Someone needs to keep track of where the group is and what needs to be focused on or you run the risk of not accomplishing anything while everyone just sits around waiting for someone else to say something. “I love study groups before exams. We go through old exams or practice problems by first independently solving a problem and then sharing our solutions. Others help you find out what you don’t know and you help others figure out what they don’t know and if you both don’t know, you can organize a meeting with professors and TA’s,” UT-Austin junior Gina Lu said. If you’re super uncomfortable with being the fearless leader, that’s fine too. Ask someone else to take charge and get everyone on the same page (literally and figuratively). It’s also cool if more than one person leads the group, as long as someone takes charge of keeping everyone together.
Communication is probably the most important aspect of a successful study group. It’s super important that everyone knows what’s going on. Write down some notes about what needs to be addressed and make sure everyone in the group has a clear understanding. It’s not helping anyone if half of the group reads chapter four while the other half is stuck on chapter two. Communicate what everyone needs to work on so the group can be productive and give everyone a chance to voice their thoughts. Make sure everyone knows about the meeting times. Set the date and time for the study group early so everyone can be there and remind everyone of the next meeting before you leave.
Keep The Ultimate Goal In Mind
Forming a study group needs to help everyone learn (duh). If your group doesn’t do anything but talk about how drunk they got last weekend, then your group isn’t off to a great start. Making new friends from your study group is great, but always remember that that studying is the goal. “I would suggest adding some structure to the shared study time: ‘Let’s all do the reading for an hour and then come back with two questions,’” Andrews said. Getting sidetracked is super easy, and don’t be afraid to remind everyone of what needs to be done. I know you might be scared of sounding rude, but I promise nobody is going to get angry because you reminded the study group to get back to studying. Set another time to go get froyo and discuss Beyonce, but hit the books when you’ve scheduled your study group to meet.