The Evolution of the Group Project
Your 4th grade teacher just assigned you to make a poster about the rainforest. In a group. Could life get any better than this?! THIS IS GONNA BE THE BEST PROJECT EVER WE HAVE TO GO BUY RUBBER CEMENT AND GLITTER RIGHT NOW!!!!!! You obviously all gathered at the swankiest group member's house (AKA the one who had the World Wide Web) with the coolest mom who provided the best snacks. Bagel Bites and Dunkaroos were on the menu and Destiny's Child blasted on the stereo. You laughed, ran with scissors, threw glitter at each other, and spilled Capri Sun on the carpet. Then you got down to business and used the house's top-of-the-line laser printer to decorate your kickass poster with colorful birds, lush green forests, and crazy looking anteaters. You came away from the day with a ton of new inside jokes like "Team Brainforest!" and "be the Amazon!" that you would shout at each other in the hallways for the next six months...or six years. AND THE YOU MADE A PACT TO BE BEST FRIENDS FOREVER AND IT WAS THE GREATEST AND YOU GOT A THOUSAND GOLD STARS!!!
Basically the same as elementary school except after you were done you all went on AIM and freaked out when your crush logged on and joked about getting high off rubber cement. Then you all collaborated to burn a CD featuring Kelly Clarkson, Green Day, and Fall Out Boy to give to your crush. We r goin 2 b 2gether 4ever. LOL SO FUN.
Group project on photosynthesis? Alright, cool. That could be fun, whatever. In high school, the nature of the group project changed a little. Your groups were probably assigned by the teacher and always consisted of the same cast of characters:
The over-achiever: Carried a pencil case full of highlighters, post-its, and paperclips and had a different binder and notebook for every class--color coordinated, of course. She had her eyes set on becoming class valedictorian and was SO NOT going to let you little people crush her dreams. This person didn't need to control everything, but she needed to control everything important. She is now a student in the Medill School of Journalism.
The athlete/cool guy who was kind of dumb but tried anyway: You used to have a crush on him in junior high. He was dumb as a rock, but tried his best because he wanted a football scholarship. In the group, he always got assigned some menial task like choosing the color scheme for your PowerPoint or making sure your note cards were in order. He is now the head ice cream scooper at your local dairy (also, he moonlights as a DJ).
The person who was actually smart but laid low so they wouldn't have to do extra work: This person was in all of the same classes as the valedictorian, but sat in back and never said a word. A wily little fox, this group member would excel at whatever task he was assigned, but never let anyone know just how brilliant he was. While the over-achiever brought the flash, this guy brought the substance. He is now double majoring in aeronautical engineering and ceramics at a liberal arts college. In 10 years, he will have developed a cure for cancer and AIDS and restless leg syndrome.
The person who was constantly MIA: You were weirdly attracted to this person. He had a pierced ear and played guitar and constantly cut class because he doesn't live by society's rules, man. He never showed up to group meetings. The over-achiever hated him. His job in the group was to stay out of the way. After being fired from Caribou Coffee (because Starbucks way just too corporate for him, man), he is now walking the Appalachian Trail on a journey of self-discovery.
The hot girl: If you were a girl, you hated her and if you were a guy, you've wanted to bang her since middle school. She was dumb and dragged down the group but you forgave her because she was so hot. Is now married to the athlete/cool guy.
After getting your assignment, the first thing you did was create a Facebook message thread to plan for the project and trash talk your incompetent teacher. Then you met up at the home of whoever's parents worked all the time, because parents were lame and you wouldn't want to be seen within 50 feet of one. What started out as awkward tension with people you barely knew grew into genuine camaraderie. For the rest of high school, you were connected by that hilarious, sexually explicit puppet show you put on in freshman biology. As an added bonus, you FINALLY hooked up with the group member who was constantly MIA after Sir Edward Twattingworth III's graduation party. You made out in his Mustang to Radiohead.
Fuck. I don’t have time for this at all. This is literally the worst. AND ITS 50% OF MY FINAL GRADE?! Bullshit. Is it too late to drop this class?
Group projects in college are not cool. Coordinating the schedules of five different people is hard enough. And then there's the project itself. It's usually something inane that would work much better as an individual assignment but your professor is a big fan of "collaboration." When you got assigned your first group project here at Northwestern, I bet you thought, "Wow, everyone here is so smart, I bet our project will turn out great with all of these smart, creative, capable people!" WRONG.
Remember the over-achievers from your high school group project? Well, now you've got at least two of those people in your group vying for attention. Their ideas are inevitably conflicting and they spend more time sparring with each other than actually doing work. Remember that smart person who laid low? Yep, he's in your group too. He will ultimately do most of the work while the over-achievers' backs are turned. The group probably also consists of someone who is always way too busy to make meetings, someone who is in the class just for funsies and doesn't really give a shit, and someone who is a walking Text From Last Night. Are we having fun yet?!
No. We're not. Obviously, the only time and place you can meet is 9 AM on a Saturday at Norbucks. You all try to crowd around a tiny table with your laptops. Someone is hungover. Someone oversleeps and shows up 40 minutes late. Someone spills coffee all over your laptops. You have nothing done. After two hours you decide it's best just to split up the work and communicate over a Google Doc. And then everything is terrible and you fail the class and drop out of college. The end. LOL, JK. You probably got a B+.