How to survive the dreaded group project

Emily Doran

Every semester, I tend to have at least a few group projects for various classes due around midterms or right before final exams. I’m sure that many students would agree with me that group projects can be some of the most stressful assignments you can get during your time as an undergrad.

I personally have never been keen on the idea of someone’s grade being dependent on the effort (or lack thereof) of another student. Additionally, I don’t believe that group projects should be such an integral component of the undergraduate curriculum. While I can appreciate that certain necessary skill sets can be cultivated during the execution of group projects (the ability to work with others, put together slideshows and present in front of an audience, for example), I would argue that there are certain components of group projects that do not necessarily accurately reflect team efforts in the world of work.

For example, college students operate on varying schedules, unlike many employees who work together 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., students have to meet at odd times in order to put together their presentations. Nevertheless, despite these issues, group projects persist in making up a significant chunk of class assignments. With that in mind, I’ve put together a few ways that you can make group projects more tolerable.

First, it’s important that you get started as early as possible. You need to give yourself plenty of time when you’re coordinating multiple people’s schedules. The earlier you start, too, the sooner you can address potential issues and roadblocks, such as differing opinions and work styles.

On that note, it’s important that everyone involved in the project get on the same page. Oftentimes, group members will start a project having differing ideas about the direction they want to pursue. Obviously, this is an issue; without agreement, there can be no real progress.

In order to resolve this problem, you can start by having judgment-free brainstorming sessions, during which time everyone involved can air their opinions, ideas and concerns. Then, you should be able to work together to (hopefully unanimously) pick the best direction.

Efficiently utilizing each group member’s strengths is also key to surviving group projects and making them the best they can be. If one person happens to excel at making PowerPoints, for example, then that is he/she should be doing. If another person is effective at public speaking, then perhaps he/she should take the lead presenting the final project.

By divvying up the work according to people’s strengths, you’re bound to produce the best group project possible. Still, though, it’s important to hold each other accountable in order to produce a quality project, so checking in with each other and meeting regularly is also a good idea.

Although group projects tend to be stressful more often than not, there are ways to make them more tolerable. You can get started as early as possible, make sure that everyone involved is on the same page, and delegate work according to individual team member’s strengths.