No man is an island, isn’t that what they say? Unfortunately, sometimes it’s only too easy to feel alone when you’re surrounded by a sea of study material that you don’t understand. If that’s case, maybe you should consider finding a study buddy.
Even if you don’t feel adrift, having a study partner can make learning a much more engaging experience. But, the success of the venture depends on how well you choose your partner.
Who’s your study buddy?
What’s your first instinct when it comes to choosing a study partner? You want to ask a friend, right? You know her, you’re comfortable in her company, and you have a good time together, what could go wrong?
While it is important to get on with your study partner, there is the danger that if you get on too well your study time could turn into hang out time. Unless you’re both very disciplined you might find that not a lot of studying gets done.
Another danger is that studying together brings a whole new dynamic to the friendship, one that could unbalance it and (worst case scenario) destroy it. For example, you might have completely incompatible studying styles, which could lead to nasty clashes, fights, poor results, and blame. No one wants that.
Your next instinct is probably to ask the smartest person in the class to be your study buddy. How could that go wrong? Well, the essence of a study partnership is mutual benefit. Be brutally honest: how will the smartest person in the class benefit from being your study partner? If you’re not sure of the answer, maybe you can ask her to tutor you, but don’t use the term study partner. You should also consider how she manages to be the smartest person in the class. She could be militant in her approach to studying, so you need to ask yourself if you can match her dedication or if you’ll end up wasting her time.
So, how do you go about selecting a study partner?
Grace Fleming suggests that you start by looking at your own study habits, especially with regard to your strengths and weaknesses. For example, how strong are your note-taking skills, how strong is your self-discipline, how good is your time management, and what learning styles suit you best?
A lot of your choice depends on what you want from a study partner. For example, do you want someone who will remind about homework assignments and test dates, and who will sit down with you and keep you motivated to make sure that you actually get things done? Or do you want someone who will help you understand the material better, who will challenge you to go beyond the textbooks and homework?
Armed with that knowledge, you can probably hazard a guess as to who in your social circle, or circle of acquaintances would be a good fit study buddy-wise. It might be a good idea to identify several candidates and suggest you get together as a study group. You can ask the person you work best with in the group to take the relationship up to the next level.
If that is a bit too direct for you, there are other options. Kathleen McMillan says that most universities have systems or programs that help students find suitable study partners. If your university doesn’t have such a system, you can always ask your lecturer for some advice. Lecturers have a good feel for their students and often make great study buddy suggestions.
Alternatively, you can go (where else) online. There are websites and online communities that are dedicated to bringing together compatible study partners who would otherwise never have found each other. You’ll have to answer some questions and fill in a profile so that the ideal match can be found, but the system does all the hard work for you. It’s like an online dating service, but different.
Some online systems pair students from different universities, which is not necessarily a bad idea. You won’t be able to study for a specific test together, but you can still bounce ideas off each other, debate your opinions, and refine your arguments, which can especially helpful when you’ve got a big paper or assignment due. And, sometimes having an outsider’s point of view provides an interesting, contrasting perspective.
Remember that a study buddy is not for life. You don’t have to stick it out if a particular partnership isn’t working. Provided you haven’t sworn an oath of fealty to each other, it’s a simple matter of being honest about the situation and starting the process again.