How to Survive Group Projects in College


Group projects are like taxes: unpleasant and unavoidable. If you have a group project coming up in one of your college courses, check out this blog post for a few suggestions about how to survive.

Surviving the Group Project

Let's be honest: not many people like group projects. Things can get chaotic when college students are forced to collaborate on a project that will significantly affect their grades. Unfortunately, professors don't seem to be planning to stop assigning group projects anytime soon, so you'll have to find a way to survive them. Here are our top tips for how to get through a group project and make it out alive.

College students work on a group project

Assign Roles

In every group project, certain roles tend to emerge. There's a leader, a slacker, somebody who never shows up at all. But if you leave people to their own devices, you might end up with a group of six leaders or five slackers. Not ideal. To avoid this nightmare, be clear about everybody's role from the beginning. You'll probably need:

  • A leader, to help make sure everybody gets along and fulfills their responsibilities
  • An organizer, to keep everybody in contact and track tasks and outcomes
  • Group members, whose main focus will be to complete work
  • A presenter, to combine the work into a presentable final product

It's probably best to let people volunteer for the more involved roles, since some people have the natural tendency to want to do more work and some, well…. don't. It's also important to make sure that the leader, organizer, and presenter also contribute to completing tasks. It's only fair.

An overhead shot of college students working together

Be Clear About Expectations

Unfortunately, it's not enough just to tell people which role to play; they must also know exactly what it is that they need to do. As a group, divvy up the project into a list of specific micro-level tasks, and then choose which person will do which task. Make sure that each group member is willing and able to commit to the tasks they are assigned and knows exactly what is expected from them. Naturally, we wouldn't expect everybody to actually do their assigned work (without pestering), but at least starting with clear expectations allows the group leader to know who to pester and about what.

Have a Back-up Plan

Hopefully, following our first two tips will set you up for group project success. But what if it doesn't? Sometimes things just don't go as planned. In the case of total chaos, we recommend having a back-up plan. Know what your professor will accept as a minimum requirement for the project, decide on a scenario in which you might have to pivot from your original plan, and determine a point of no return. For example, you might decide that if tasks X, Y, and Z don't get done by two days before the project deadline, you will engage Plan B. Of course, we hope it doesn't come to this type of situation, but at least you'll be prepared for the worst.

A notebook indicating Plan B

There Will Be Individual Projects Again

Whether your group project is a success or a massive failure, know that it's only one part of your overall grade. You'll soon be able to work on things by yourself again. Oh, glorious solitude. And, heck, why are you in college if not to learn, anyway? Group projects, if anything, are definitely a learning experience. If not about the actual subject at hand, at least about psychology and group dynamics. So go forth and group project. As if you have a choice.

Looking for help with your college courses? Check out's college study guides.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
November 2018
college college success

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