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Divide and Conquer: How to Make the Most of a College Group Project (236 hits)

Many college students at schools like Stevens Henager College do not look forward to being assigned a group project. That is understandable because these exercises are often stressful and time-consuming. However, group projects are a valuable part of college education. Participation gives you an opportunity to learn to work as a team member and develop leadership skills. Group projects resemble the work environment you will experience after graduation. In fact, a group project is closer to being what the real world is like than anything you will encounter in college unless you get an internship or undergraduate research assistant position. The next time you have a group project in a university course, keep the following tips in mind.

Build Your Team

More often than not, your professor will assign people to work groups for a project. Sometimes students are given this responsibility. If that is the case, donít choose based simply on friendship. Try to build a team with people who have varied interests and skills. Avoid picking someone who is overburdened with other things in his or her life unless the person is especially good at a particular aspect of the project. For example, if it is a computer science programming project and you can include someone who is really good with program logic or coding, you want her on your team.

Seek the Leadership Role

Donít hesitate to take a leadership role or accept the project coordinator job if you get the chance. You might be concerned about motivating a team member who doesnít hold up his end. This is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to develop your leadership skills. When you are in the lead position, remember that this does not mean that you do all of the work. Your task as leader is to make certain everything gets done correctly and on time.

Set Up Communications

Work out a mutually agreeable system for communicating for all group project members. One of the best approaches is to create a dedicated Gmail account and use Google Docs. In addition, make sure everyone has a complete list of contact information for individual team members.

Create a Timetable

In the real world, projects are set up on a timetable. A good project schedule has two essential features: meeting dates and benchmark deadlines. Meetings are an opportunity to verify that everyone is on track to complete the project on time. A meeting also gives everyone a chance to report progress, discuss problems and present ideas to improve the project outcome. A benchmark deadline or milestone is a date on which a particular task is to be completed. Using milestones allows the team to identify bottlenecks or problems quickly and take prompt action to deal with the issue.

Build in a Time Reserve

Another real world issue you must deal with is the probability of delays. Set up the timeline with a completion date a few days before the project is actually due. This positions your team to deal with delays and still complete the project on time.

Seek Help

In an actual work environment, the boss should delegate project implementation to qualified employees. This management strategy is called employee empowerment, and this is what your professor is trying to teach you by assigning a group project. Part of properly implementing such projects is to seek your professorís help and advice when you need assistance, access to resources or clarifications. Your professor is also your backup if a group member fails to do her share of the work and wonít respond to your efforts to motivate her. Donít hesitate to ask for help. This is what you are supposed to do and your professor will appreciate your good judgment.


One of the most common complaints people have about college is that it often does not teach you how things actually work in real life. This is exactly what group projects do best. Approach them with a positive attitude. One day you will realize they are among the most valuable experiences you will have during your college career.
Posted By: Dixie Somers
Tuesday, February 6th 2018 at 5:42PM
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