Getting Involved in College: Group Project Edition

The Hangover Group Project Meme
Group projects are an inevitable part of college, yet they are rarely discussed in terms of using them as a tool to get more involved with your school. They may not always be considered the most enjoyable aspect of college, yet they are valuable nonetheless. You can’t control the behavior of others in your group. However, you can make it a more positive experience for everyone involved, including yourself.

Group Projects

Group projects can reap the same benefits as extracurricular activities with the right attitude. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of a group project:

  • Participate. I know it may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. If mentioning participation was irrelevant or redundant, then the meme at the beginning of this blog post wouldn’t exist. Yes, like some other assignments group projects are not “fun” in the traditional sense. Professors assign group projects (in part) as an attempt to prepare you for your “real” job where you will need to work cohesively with your peers on a regular basis. By fully participating in your group project, you are also connecting with students with whom you may otherwise never think to approach. I have actually even made several friends as a result of working on a group project.
    If you find that not everyone in your group is participating, try politely talking to that person about it. If you can’t get ahold of them or their behavior doesn’t change, bring it to the professor’s attention. The professor might reach out to the absent student, dock that one student’s grade, and/or take that student’s lack of participation into account when they are grading your group project.
  • Communicate, not dictate. It is essential that you voice your opinions and ideas, and do so in a way that allows others to do the same. Not saying anything can result with everyone either staring blankly at each other or all saying, “What do you want to do?” followed by, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”
    When you do speak up, and are possibly disagreeing with someone’s idea, state your opinion/idea politely and have a follow-up suggestion. For instance instead of saying, “No, I don’t want to do that.” or “We should just do it this (your idea) way.” you could say, “Thank you for your idea. I was thinking that we could do this (whatever your idea is). What do you think?” Thanking the other person will allow them to feel as though their voice is still important. Even if their idea isn’t used, this approach is more likely to foster further productive communication within the group.
  • Be patient, and have an open mind. Everyone communicates differently, and this can lead to misinterpretations. Be patient, take a deep breath, and try not to get frustrated or angry, since that will only hinder your project. If needed, ask questions to try and get clarity on what it is they are saying. Chances are that you are not the only one who may be confused or misunderstood what they said.
    You may also not be completely on board with everything your group is doing and (as long as it won’t affect your grade negatively) that’s okay. Part of working on a group project is making sure everyone’s voices are heard. Having an open mind and being willing to compromise opens the door for more of your group members to contribute.
  • Meet in-person with your group as often as possible. Nowadays technology allows us to connect with others in ways that were not previously possible (I personally have no idea how anyone had the time to research anything without internet access to library databases). Checking up with your group on their progress and exchanging ideas via text, email, etc. is important, but meeting in-person provides the clearest communication. Think about it. You’ve undoubtedly been a part of a text conversation that has spiraled out of control because something was misinterpreted that likely wouldn’t have had the conversation taken place face-to-face. The tone of your voice and body language are just as much a part of communication as the actual words.

Group projects may not always be well-received, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of them. Since you and your classmates are all likely pursuing the same major and similar career paths (especially in 200 level and above classes), getting involved in your school through group projects affords you the opportunity to make valuable connections and jump start your future networking.

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Nikki Martens

Nikki will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Communications, Media, & Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in August of 2016. As a transfer student, she has first-hand knowledge of what it is like to navigate the systems of community colleges, private, and public four-year institutions. Nikki aims to use this academic experience in her writing to help others excel in their collegiate careers. She is powered by coffee and when she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with animals by dog sitting and volunteering at a local cat shelter.