University subjects can be daunting and scary, however, throughout my experience I have found out that sharing this feeling with a good study group can significantly improve the experience out of those subjects.
What do I mean by a study group and why is it worth mentioning? There are the study groups that you are assigned to do an assignment for a subject or a group project and there are the study groups with whom you meet after lectures to go through the curriculum material and help each other completely voluntarily. Within this blog the latter is of interest, think about the popular sitcom “Community”. I believe a study group is important because it had, based on my own personal study experience, tremendous effect on my own university life. Before I managed to establish a proper study group, I was somewhat demotivated and afraid of the subjects I was having, however, once I had the right people around me, my performance skyrocketed. Maybe the same will happen to you!
Why is a study group so important? Usually people have different skills even in an environment where similar people are placed such as a university course. Some people are number crunchers and can easily understand a mathematical model, however, often might not see the value of such model in practice. Others on the other hand, can easily see the value, however, struggle with understanding the model. Third might be excellent in describing a case and connecting different models together but struggle with the challenges described above. Many times, an exam will require you to do all of the above mentioned and studying alone for it might be much more challenging than if you were in a study group where you could utilize the different skills and learn together and from each other.
What makes a good study group? In my opinion based on personal experience and observations, diversity. However, diversity can mean many things, so what exactly matters? Is it diversity of nationality and gender or diversity of skills? Probably both are important, however, I would argue that diversity of skills is what matters the most. Therefore, when selecting a study group, you would like to optimize the overall skill utility of the group rather than other diversity factors. Even though this might sound very analytical and you might feel like you need an Excel spreadsheet to achieve that, being honest about your own weaknesses and the strengths of others is usually enough to select the right study buddies.
How do you create a study group? Given the above mentioned, usually just look around the row you are sitting in. I always sat in the first row in the classroom and I always managed to create a diverse study group just by the guys sitting next to me. Skills and personality do not necessarily correlate, however, (based on personal observations) people that have similar personality traits tend to sit at a specific location of the room (e.g. the first row). So just talk to your neighboring classmates and ask them what they think about the subject, what do they fear the most and select the ones that complement each other. Who knows, worst case you end up with a bunch of new friends!
To summarize, going alone throughout the university experience can be scary and very sub-optimal for your own educational and to some extend social performance. Therefore, agreeing to join a study group given it is the right one for you or even taking the initiative to create a study group can vastly help you achieve a much better educational experience, which is especially true in the highly applied teaching style of the Nordic universities.
Written by Kiril Proykov