How to Start a Study Group in College, in 4 Easy Steps

Here’s everything you need to start a study group that’s actually productive.

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This post will show you how to start a study group, plus key study group tips for a productive group.

How to start a study group that's actually productive

It’s that time of year when midterms are due and exam season is right around the corner, as much we probably don’t want to think about it. There are plenty of tip and tricks on how to improve your study game, but today I want to focus on one method in particular, and that is study groups.

If you haven’t been in a study group before, I highly recommend starting one this semester.

Study groups are a fantastic way to excel in your classes because you have the opportunity to ask questions about material you find difficult, and maybe get it explained in way that is clearer.

At the same time, you can use your study group time to teach some else material that you think you understand — this will help you fill in any gaps in your own learning, while also helping someone else. Plenty of studies show that people understand things better if they’re able to teach them to someone else.

Starting a study group is also a great way to stay accountable for your studying. It’s also a good way to motivate yourself to study because if you don’t show up, you won’t just be letting yourself down but also the others in your study group.

So now that you’re willing to give this study group thing a try, we’re here to help you get started.

Here is everything you need to think about when starting a study group, broken down into four easy steps.

1. Think About How It Will Be Organized

Picture of a woman writing in a notebook in front of a computer screen.
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

This is the most basic step in the process and includes everything from time to what to what you’re actually going to do during the session.

Do you want your group to consist of people taking the same classes, to go into depth on exact material and ask each other questions? Or do you want to start a study group with your friends from other classes, for accountability or company? There is no wrong answer here, but it’s important to get clear on this before you begin.

Also, think about what are you going to do during the session. For example, if your study group is going to consist of people in your class, some perfect studying activities would be quizzing each other or taking turns explaining the material. Make sure you have time to ask questions and also schedule some downtime because balance is key.

Finally, pick a time and date that is suitable for everyone involved in your study group. Make sure that you have all your study material or project material at the ready.

Related reading: 10 Organization and Study Tips for Starting the Semester Off Right

2. Find the Perfect Study Space

Two women looking at at some notes.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The next think to think about is location. Where is your study group going to take place?

First, consider doing it online. After 2020, almost all of us now have experience with taking classes online, socializing online, interviewing online and basically spending all of our time online so an online study group is definitely an option.

An online study group saves time on transport and you don’t have to worry about finding a location to accommodate everyone. A bonus is that if you have a set up your study space at home, you can take part in your study group from your personalized study space.

On the other hand, meeting face to face (depending on restrictions) is great because it’s just nice to see people face to face. You can share materials easily and show each other things, instead of utilizing screen share. Another bonus is just having a chance to get out of the house and into a new environment, which can help you focus as sometimes it’s hard to be productive at home.

If you are looking for an offline study space, some options include your school library, a cafe on campus, or someone’s apartment in your group.

3. Invite People

Four people at a desk, reading and studying.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

You can’t have a study group without people and choosing the right people for your study group is key for a productive study session.

Think about how many people you want to have in your study group. In my experience, the ideal study group size is three to six people. Too many people in the group, you might find yourself distracted and not able to deal with conflict. Not enough people, you may not get the full benefit of the group.

{RELATED POST: How to Plan the Perfect Study Date}

Also, consider temperament and be realistic: Think about whether the people in your group will spend only twenty minutes studying and 40 minutes discussing Netflix. If you find that your friends distract you while you study, then maybe they aren’t fit for a study group.

If you’re set on having people in your group that might distract you, set firm boundaries for time for socializing versus study from the get-go, so everyone knows what to expect.

4. Set Up Goals and Deadlines

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Photo by Markus Winkler from Pexels

A huge tip for a successful study group is to plan each session ahead. Get clear on exactly what you want to accomplish during each study session.

For example, maybe you have a specific learning objective or a certain word count you want to reach for a project. Set this as a goal from the start of the session.

It can be easy to use your study session to just flick through your notes aimlessly. In some circumstances, that can work, but it’s better to participate in active studying for maximum learning.

If there’s a group project, instead of just aiming for the deadline, encourage everyone in your group to set mini deadlines way before the final one, so you have time to for everyone to coordinate their parts and make the work the best it can be for submission. Make sure everyone has a clear role and ensure you have time to really plan together. That way, everyone will get the most out of your group.

What are your tips on how to start a study group?

Do you like to study in groups or alone? What have your experiences with study groups been? Let us know below in the comments.

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