It’s no secret, really. Every student learns differently, prepares differently and definitely studies differently. You know you best. By now, you are getting a good feel for this experience called law school. Or you may already have a strong sense of what works for you and what doesn’t. Perhaps you have yet to try something that could help (or harm) your ability to achieve success. Which leads us to this important question: How do you know if you should join a study group or not?
There are several benefits (and drawbacks — scroll down to see those, too):
A study group can provide support and calm some fears. Law school can be terrifying and stressful, and spending time with your peers enduring the same journey makes you feel less alone. Confidence through camaraderie.
If you are totally lost on a concept, think you’ve got something down but are dead wrong (and don’t know it yet), or just talking yourself around in circles, a study group is a great resource. Bounce ideas off colleagues. Group think your way to deeper clarity and understanding. Many times, law students feel they have a firm grasp of a concept and spend valuable time studying incorrect information. During class, they make this unfortunately discovery. Communication in a study group provides a nice checks and balances – to alert you of anything that’s incorrect, if you’re not expanding enough on a concept or even expanding way too much.
Having a set time for your study group to meet works to fight that natural tendency of … procrastination. Who wants to study Future Interests at 9 a.m. on Saturday? No one! Bu if you have your study group partners waiting for you on that Saturday morning, you become naturally accountable. You’re more likely to show up and put the time in needed to be successful in law school.
And the potential drawbacks:
Group projects. Many students dislike group group projects because they feel much of the work lands on them. Lack of focus and productivity. Many times, group study can turn into a social event. That’s why it is so important to find and choose members/colleagues who are disciplined and dedicated to the bigger goals of collaboration, effort and ultimately staying productive and on track.
It’s possible you might spend an inordinate amount of time helping your group mates, sacrificing and not concentrating on your own progress and work. You may understand Torts as well as your professor and end up teaching it to your group … but make sure there are limits on how far to go with such assistance. You deserve the time you need to focus on your studies, too. It’s totally fair and reasonable to set this expectation early.
At certain times, you may need a quiet(er) place to study effectively. Study groups — as in plural — are going to be filled with questions, cross-talking, sidebars and comments blurted out on the spot. If you need “complete” quiet, the study group environment will be too distracting and disruptive.
All in all, study groups are meant to help. After considering the points above, should you join one? Give it some thought and be honest with yourself. That way, you’ll really know if these will benefit you. If not, try to make a few close friends in your section so that you can grab notes if you miss class or are stuck on a concept here and there. Although law school can be quite competitive, you’ll find that many students are more than happy to help one another out.