Wednesday, August 22, 2018

“Many Hands Make Light Work” John Heywood

As most parents of college prep students know, doing well in high school is critical if students wish to earn lots of scholarship money for college. It also entails a great deal of effort. While researching successful scholarship winners for my book, Free College, I discovered these students have a strategy for lightening the load. They use study groups and/or study buddies. In Chapter 8 of Free College, you can read the stories of several of these students.

While on Twitter, I look for people who have expertise in the topics included in my book, so I may share what they know with families of future college students. One such person is Melodieann Whiteley, retired US navy cryptologist, network marketer and author of Getting To Yes. She has a great deal of experience in working with groups. Because of her knowledge and familiarity with teamwork, I asked her to share some of her insights in a guest post for my blog, Although what she has written is aimed at college students, every word applies to high school students as well.

Do You Want to Succeed in College?  Create a Study Group

According to those who have been there before, the key to success in law or business school is getting in with the right study group.  These partners not only give you buddies to study with, they keep you accountable and on-task.  If you let yourself down, you let down the whole group.

I would actually take that a bit further.  I believe that a study group is invaluable no matter your field of study.  Finding accountability partners can be key to a successful college experience.  A good study group can support your efforts, help you brainstorm problems, and keep you on schedule.  The right study group can mean the difference between passing and failing.

How is this possible?  I was a college student once upon a time.  And though it has been quite a few years, I remember what it was like.  I doubt that the mentality of the average college student has changed drastically in that time.  I remember…

I remember needing to prepare for an upcoming exam.  But there was a party happening that night.  Or something interesting on television.  Or maybe I just got caught up chatting with friends in the lounge.  And before you knew it, study time had come and gone.  And I was left pulling the well-known “all-nighter” to ensure that I passed the exam.  I may have had fun doing all these things, but I paid for it with lack of sleep, increased stress and most likely a lower grade than if I had been well-prepared.

But a study group can help prevent procrastination.  Because most groups meet a specific time, there is a commitment in place.  An appointment to meet.  And if you are late, or skip the group altogether, the other group members should hold you accountable.  So while I may have wanted to really go to that party, knowing I would have to face my fellow group members and explain was enough to make me reconsider.

I remember my Philosophy class.  I was a science major.  Philosophy?  Why did I need that?  Because I was attending a Catholic college that felt all students should take at least one philosophy class.  And so there I was reading Kant, Plato and Descartes and being thoroughly bored and confused. 

Thankfully, one of the members of my study group loved philosophy!  And he was more than willing to share with the rest.  So instead of spending time reading and rereading something that held no interest for me other than the fact that it was required and I wanted to pass, I was able to learn quickly simply by having my friend explain what I did not understand.  

So a study group helped me learn something faster and more thoroughly than if I had tried to learn it on my own.

I would like to say that it also instilled in me a love for – or at least an interest in – philosophy…but I’d be lying.

Which brings me to the next way a study group can be beneficial.

While I am still not an avid reader of Aristotle or David Hume, the time spent in my study group did help me see many things from a new point of view.  While philosophy as a whole was not of interest to me, many of the subjects that came up for discussion during class were.  And I had a very strong opinion on them based on my small town experience.  But discussing these subjects with others with very different backgrounds and experiences often made me see things from a new perspective.  As we would discuss the material from class, all of these different viewpoints became part of the discussion.  And I was forced to think about and sometimes defend my position.  When you are asked to give actual reasons, backed up with facts, for a particular position, you tend to study the topic much more thoroughly.

And so a study group can help you develop your critical thinking skills, increase your verbal communication skills, and cause you to make a more in-depth study of the subject.

There are many more reasons that study groups are beneficial.  You can learn new skills.  Fill in gaps in your learning.  Hone your people skills.  That is if you find the right group.  Not all groups are created equal.  It’s important to make sure you fill the group with the right people.

Here’s what to look for in your own study group:
A variety of skills and experiences:  The best groups have members with varied skills, backgrounds, and interest.  That way they can all advise each other and provide different perspectives on the same topics.  If everyone has exactly the same backgrounds, you may have a lot in common, but you won’t be able to brainstorm as effectively. 

Similar commitment level.  The most important element may very well be a common level of commitment to your goals, whatever they may be.  If one member is a little lax and the others are all gung ho, the mismatch will soon drive everyone crazy and may cause bad feelings. 

Regular meeting times. Make a regular weekly or even daily appointment and keep it! Nothing will submarine a group faster than no-shows or constantly changing meeting times.

Structured meetings.  No I don’t mean scripted down to the last minute with an agenda.  But at least having a time limit on off-topic discussions or how long each member can talk will ensure no one hogs the whole time – or never shares his or her questions and ideas at all.

Resource sharing.  One of the most valuable roles in a study group is the sharing of recommendations and referrals.  Are you especially close to the Congressman back home who is looking for summer clerks?  Is your mom, the lawyer, interested having an intern?  Your study group friends may be looking for exactly that! 

One final thing to keep in mind is that study groups, like friendships, are created differently.  Some will last a semester or two.  Some may last only a few weeks or months.  I belong to a virtual mastermind that is comprised of several friends from my old college study groups.  (Yes, even my philosophy-loving friend!)  We kept in touch over the years and with the advent of social media and technology, now meet via Zoom every week to discuss our businesses!  Be ready to let your group go if it’s no longer meeting your needs.  It will be hard, but if it’s not helping you further your goals, it may be time to study by yourself.

You are reading from the blog,, where we empower families with knowledge to navigate the path to higher education without the burden of excessive loans.


For more information, you’ll want my book, Free College, CLICK HERE. It teaches families how to help their kids become more successful in school, college, and life.

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Photo Credit: Melodieann Whitely

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