Most students have done some group work by the time they get out of high school, so you probably have at least some idea of how to work with others. College-level group projects, however, can be quite different.
High school group projects often require only cooperation—you have to be willing to do your part for the group. Now that you’re in college, however, there’s a lot more to it. You’ll need more skills than the ability to collaborate.
Fortunately, you already have most of these skills, and you’ll pick up the ones that you don’t fairly quickly.
One of the first things you might notice about working in groups in college is that your groupmates may be much more academically ambitious. Some people are very concerned about their grades, and this can definitely come out during group projects. Because everyone wants their group to do really well, they’re going to push pretty hard in the direction that they think is best.
For example, if you’re working in a group in an English class, one of the members of your group may be convinced that you should approach a poem in a certain way, and that the interpretations presented by your other groupmates are wrong. These situations can get contentious at times, so you’ll have to learn to compromise and—if you really want to benefit your group—defuse tense situations.
Knowing how to make everyone in the group happy is very valuable, and will help you not only in school, but for the rest of your professional life.
The other side of the coin, however, is also important. You have to be willing to push for what you think is right. Be willing to accept compromise, but if you have good ideas, let people know!
Don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel strongly or have an idea that you think is good. In most cases, your input will be appreciated and will help your group create the best work possible. Finding a balance between pushing your ideas and accepting others is the essence of successful group work.
And finally, of course, you have to work hard. Your group is depending on you, so don’t let them down!
Most group projects are pretty intense—if they weren’t, your professors wouldn’t encourage working in groups. Be willing to put in some serious time and effort, and your group members will be more likely to do the same.
If you slack off and let everyone else do the work, you’ll start developing a reputation as a poor group member, and you’ll pay for it later when no one wants to work with you!