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How to Do a Group Project with Idiots


I was really hoping that in college group projects would be different. I mean we're all paying to be there, so theoretically we all want to be there, right? We don't have to worry about meeting up outside of class when we all live on campus so we don't have to worry about rides and curfews. Also, we cared enough to put the effort to get into college, so of course we will all care enough to put in plenty of effort and use teamwork skills to make this big project that counts for 25% of our grade fantastic and easy.

And yet here I am, writing this Hub because I'm trying to figure it out myself.

Get Organized On the First Meeting

One of the most stressful statements that can practically guarantee bad results is "We can figure it out later." Like every other form of procrastination, group procrastination causes a lot of stress followed by mediocre work. Here are some things you should figure out before anything else:

  • Each other's names and contact information
  • Who is doing what in the project
  • When can we all meet

Figure this out before even starting on the project. It will save a lot of time and confusion later, believe me. You will need to know how to reach them outside of class if something comes up or just to keep them updated on your work and if the work is already divided up then you can start on your portion immediately and on a schedule that works best for you.

Meeting outside of class is most likely necessary. I say most likely because sometimes it's impossible, especially if you have an athlete in your group or someone with a part time job. There must be cohesion with your project so there should be quite a bit of communication between everyone. However, a lot of it can be done with a group email thread, which is what I recommend. Everyone can read and respond in their own time. Email threads work best when everyone responds so everyone knows they are on the same page. Even if it's just "okay" or "Cool", it's enough communication.

Also, if you are positive you are definitely working with idiots and not just arrogant (believe me, I'm fighting my own arrogance on my group project) then it will help to explain to them in the clearest terms possible why this will work much better than saying "We'll figure this out the day before it's due."


Know Exactly Why You're Meeting Before You Meet

Sometimes there are precious few times when all of you can meet. You don't want to spend that time figuring out what you need to get done in that meeting, especially when people only have a half hour before they go to their next thing.

Are you meeting because of some concerns in the project? Does someone need help? What concerns do you have? Perhaps you need to meet with a librarian about something, or you need to film a video to go along with the project. If all of you know what's going on beforehand, you won't waste about ten minutes of your meeting staring awkwardly at each other saying "What do we do?"


Be Patient and Flexible

Oh yes, I know this one is difficult as much as everyone else. There are plenty of times when I wish that group projects worked like alliances in the Hunger Games, where you get to kill each other after taking everyone else out. But unfortunately it doesn't work that way and even more unfortunately you can't do the damn thing yourself. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, smile at them, think "bite me", and move on to the next order of business until you can escape and rant to your best friend/sister/boyfriend. If possible, just be amused when things go wrong. And they will go wrong. Everything going smoothly in group projects is a happy accident that happens when all the planets are perfectly aligned. When you're working with idiots, it only happens when all the planets are perfectly lined up to the millimeter.

Also remember that in group projects, equal is not always fair. Believe me, it pisses me off too, but sometimes you just have to take on more of the work than your partners because you are looking at a night of Netflix and romance novels and they are looking at a night of weight training, line drills, and basketball practice before study sessions for their three exams the next day. It's very annoying that your night off is taken because your partner is an athlete but sometimes it happens and you have to deal, because not only would it make everything smoother, but it's the right thing to do. Of course if they're just lazy and refuse to do their fair share, kill them. (Actually, don't. That's a bad idea. But see if the professor will separate your grades or at the very least give you an extension).

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Just remember that no matter what, the group project will eventually end, and you will hopefully never have to work with these people again.


Kara Skinner (author) from Maine on October 01, 2015:

clivewilliams, it's really annoying when they are irresponsible but I'm finding it even more annoying when they complain about how stupid the project is. One of them is doing that in my class even though it's introduction to business and she's a business major. I want to ask her what the hell she thought the class was supposed to be about.

ChrisCampbell05, I'll have to try that. It's a good strategy. The class I have the group work in is an 8 am class so unfortunately there's not much class participation at all, but that's definitely a good rule of thumb.

peachpurple, Yeah, definitely going to try to be patient. I know my partners aren't really idiots, but sometimes it seems like they are. They are probably thinking the same thing about me, though :)

Mel Carrier, I only like doing everything myself when I'm the only one getting a grade, but luckily not everyone in my group is too busy for homework so I only have to do about thirty-five percent by myself when I should be doing about twenty percent. I wish I could change groups since there's only one person I'm fully on the same page with. But that's okay. Only a few more months. I'm glad you liked the hub!

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on October 01, 2015:

My solution to the group project with idiots problem was to do everything myself. In retrospect I should have changed groups, but in the land of the idiots the half-brained man is king, so I stayed put. Great hub!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 30, 2015:

yeah you gotta be patient with slow friends, they aren't idiots

Chris from Tampa, FL on September 30, 2015:

Yeh, I had a lot of issues with group projects in graduate school. Many of the students were B-C quality and their work reflected it. This was a challenge for me as I was an A student (finished my masters with a 4.0) That being said it is not to difficult to spot the students who try. Just look for class participation and link up with those people.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on September 30, 2015:

hate group projects, i always end up doing all the work....bunch of lazy ass college students when you tell them to meet up they party all night and drink, then over sleep and do nothing.

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