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Bateman: A procrastinating student’s guide to study groups

By Oliver Bateman

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The pleasures of college life are many, but the unalterable fact remains: If you’re enrolled… The pleasures of college life are many, but the unalterable fact remains: If you’re enrolled in school, you have to take tests. Around the middle of each semester, after consuming hundreds of $5 pizzas and playing thousands of hours of Call of Duty, you’re going to wake up and realize that some heavy stuff is probably happening in your classes.

After checking CourseWeb during one of those glorious periods when my.pitt.edu is fully operational, your mouth will fly open like the door of a 1920s-era cash register. “Wait,” you’ll say, “Since when am I enrolled in Introduction to the Arts and Sciences?”

Fortunately, the syllabus you perused in search of a favorable attendance policy and then discarded right after is still available online. You would’ve liked to go to Intro to Arts and Sciences, but the Chevron Science Center was so far away from Litchfield Towers that not even an amphetamine-fueled Sal Paradise could have made the trek. To make matters worse, the classes met at 2 in the afternoon, which, depending on how your five-day weekend had gone, was either way too early or way too late for a big shot like you.

And goodness gracious, the reading! You’re 500 pages behind, and you don’t even own the textbook. How could this heartless instructor expect you to cover so much ground in a single day? After all, it’s taken him and the other students nearly 10 weeks to get through it. Now that you’re hopelessly behind, there’s only one option left to you: E-mail some random people in the class and schedule a study group.

According to research we just made up, study groups are the best way to learn anything. Whenever you’re pressed for time, meeting with a bunch of similarly clueless peers to cram some information into your brainpans is a can’t-miss proposition. To get the most out of one of these sessions, though, you’ll want to pick the attendees carefully and then use your time wisely.

Before assembling your dream team, learn the name of at least one know-it-all. This person usually has a sonorous voice and is accustomed to rambling on at length. He’s probably been on a long leash in the classroom since high school, since he takes some slack off tired or lazy instructors, and he’ll do a great job of taking over the session and turning it into a showcase for his most narcissistic tendencies.

After you’ve got the know-it-all on board, try to locate some ballast to improve the group’s stability. A potent know-it-all can capsize the study group, and he needs to be weighed down by a handful of silent, diligent note-takers who might be able to correct his numerous misstatements of fact. These people usually sit in the front row of the class and write down every word the instructor says; they’re also likely to be friendless and available at a moment’s notice.

From there, recruit a few colorful characters to keep the mood light. That boisterous guy who always wears loose sweatpants, a blue Yankees cap with an unbent brim — from which he has yet to remove the decal — and capacious Ed Hardy shirts seems like a good choice. Hopefully he’ll be able to put his knowledge of “Family Guy” quotes, fart sounds and fantasy baseball statistics to good use.

Another smart option would be the equally boisterous girl with the radioactive tan who can’t bring herself to stop texting. Her ability to utilize the power of her smartphone will come in handy when you’re trying to check the time, find out when various places that sell $5 pizzas close and blow off steam with a quick game of Angry Birds or Blokus or Pictionary or whatever other mindless entertainment she has on there.

Once you’ve put this all-star team together, you’ll need to lead your team through the learning event of a lifetime. Schedule the first meeting at a place that’s inconvenient for everybody, such as the library, and then try your best not to show up on time. Don’t worry about buying a textbook — it’s likely that one of these people will have one.

Suggest that each person take a chapter in the textbook and outline it on note cards. This is top-notch busywork, and it gives the impression that you’re on track for even grander achievements. However, before anyone can get too focused on this assignment, start asking a bunch of annoying questions. “Can I borrow your notes?” is a good one, as is, “Did he say this was going to be on the test?” Go out of your way to show that you intend to contribute absolutely nothing to this group — save, of course, for your tremendous organizational skills.

When a few hours have passed, make a big display of acting sleepy and hungry. Ask if people want you to make a pizza-and-coffee run, then get them to pony up the cash.

To ensure that the people in the group will do your work for you, you’ll want to take as long as possible buying the food. Be sure to mess up the change, pocketing a little if the opportunity presents itself (hey, you deserve a study group finder’s fee).

The group will likely decide to conclude well before it’s accomplished anything substantial, so remember what you can and pray for the best. Clear your mind from distractions by staying up all night and slaughtering an airport filled with innocent civilians in Call of Duty, then down two pots of coffee and schlep over to Chevron to face the music.

Wait, this first essay prompt — you know this! And to think that he was on those $5 bills you were using to buy your delicious pizza. Place pen to paper and write the thesis sentence of a lifetime: “Of all of the presidents there are, Abraham Lincoln was probably one of them.”

Ds get degrees, true believers.

Oliver Bateman is a tutor and life coach at the Moustache Learning Center of America. Find out how to raise your GPA by nine points with no money down and no long-term contract at moustacheclubofamerica.com.

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Bateman: A procrastinating student’s guide to study groups