Whether you love them or hate them, chances are you will be assigned group projects during your time in college. Sure, you'll be working on concepts relevant to the class, but the actual lessons you'll take away from the experience will teach you about real life, people, and common decency.
During my senior year, I had two group projects for my hospitality management classes—theme park management and leadership fundamentals—that both taught me about the real world and work ethics.
In my leadership fundamentals class, I was in a group of three and we had to write a paper and create a presentation about the social responsibility of an existing company in the hospitality industry. Since I was an English major (minoring in hospitality), I volunteered to edit and submit our sections as well as add the introduction and conclusion of the paper. We gave ourselves due dates prior to the actual due date of the paper in order to give me enough time to edit. One group member sent me her pages in time, while the other was MIA. After both me and the good group member texting her nonstop, the other group member sent in ramblings of non-researched information only a few hours before the due date—because she was busy with a sorority function. I had to cancel my own plans to rewrite her work in order for it to actually sound like it fit with our project, and even then I was still not completely comfortable submitting a paper of such poor quality but was forced to due to the time constraints.
Over the next week, we tried to contact this other group member again to ask her to do her slides for the presentation, only to be ignored. The good group member and I split her responsibilities so we would be able to present in class, and figured she would just have to wing it for her contribution. However, the day before the presentation, we found out that the other group member dropped the class without telling us. Our professor said we did well considering the circumstances, but it was still an unnecessarily stressful situation.
This group project experience taught me the importance of communication and setting expectations.
While the good group member and I were keeping up constant and useful communication, the other group member was not. This lack of communication on her part is what caused the unnecessary stress for us. All she needed to do was send a quick text saying she dropped the class. We gave her multiple chances to do this as we were contacting her asking if she would be able to complete her slides, but she just ignored us. It is common courtesy to keep your group informed, even if the news is less than desirable.
At the beginning of the project assignment, the three of us set expectations, our personal due dates, and divided up responsibilities. The good group member and I upheld our responsibilities and expectations, but the other group member did not. Not only was her communication bad, but her work ethic was not at our level either.
In my theme park management class, I was in a group of eight people. We were assigned to create and design a small theme park (most fun project ever, tbh). Everyone fulfilled their assigned work well and communicated effectively, except for one girl. She always submitted her contributions on the day of the due dates we gave ourselves, and we could tell she did not put any effort into her work. We ended up rewriting and adding to her work and she didn't seem to care. When it came time to make our slides for the presentation, she did not complete her work and one of the other group members did this aspect for her because we started to get nervous about completing everything on time. She barely came to our meetings to discuss the project.
On the day of the presentation, we met up early before class to run through our presentation. Of course, she was late. We all were prepared with our notes and handouts and business casual dress that the professor required. We go into the class while she was still not there. We were the second group to present, and she showed up in the middle of the first group's presentation. She was in ripped jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap—not business casual. She was unprepared and we decided to ask her to not present. Our presentation ran smoothly, and after class, we spoke with the professor about her behavior. He asked us to write a statement and recommend a grade reduction.
This group project experience taught me the importance of teamwork and professionalism.
I was lucky to be assigned to a group with an overall good and equal work ethic. It is important to make sure every member is on the same page and contributing equally. An effective group needs to balance each others' skills to promote good teamwork. Of course, with the time constraints, no college group project team will be a perfect reflection of teamwork. However, these group projects can give you a practice run for being part of a team in your future or current workplace.
Professionalism is key in college and of course in the real world. We didn't let our unprofessional group member participate in the presentation because she did not follow instructions. Her lack of professionalism would have reflected badly on the whole team. In the same way, lack of professionalism in any situation can reflect badly on everyone involved.
So when you see a group project on your syllabus, don't immediately drop the class (which I did in my sophomore year). Don't expect the best, but don't expect the worst either. Expect to learn something, maybe not about the subject of your class, but about how people work together. And most importantly, how you work with other people.