The 4 Best Types of Study Buddies

On the benefits of collaborative studying, and the 4 types of people to study with.

I once believed that the purest form of studying consisted of flipping through large textbooks in the isolation of one’s dorm room. And yes, this is probably the least distracting.  But throughout college and then grad school, I discovered that studying with others is not only more fun and interactive, but it can also stave off academic burnout and boost your scores. Based on a mixture of experience and observation, I’ve broken down the 4 types of people who make for the best study companions.

  1. The Class Underdog:  Toeing the line between passing and failing, the underdog fights just to stay alive. Now, before proceeding any further, I must note the important distinction between the underdog, and the slacker. Lazy and unmotivated, the slackers survive by becoming parasites of everyone else. Subsisting off of others outline materials, notes, and even test answers, they put forth the minimum effort, so they can save energy for the big weekend party. The underdog, on the other hand, wants to succeed, and will work like a dog to keep their head above water. In many cases, certain circumstances, such as a month-long  mononucleosis absence,  have placed them against all odds. Other times, they excel in one area and fall short in another. Picture the Spelling bee champion who has difficulty wrapping their head around discrete math despite their best efforts. Whatever it may be, the underdog is rallying, and the rest of the class rallies alongside. But why study with someone below your skill level?   Well, the relationship between the underdog student and “the helping student,” is actually quite symbiotic. Taking the underdog under your wing creates a sense of purpose and responsibility in your own learning; it’s no longer just about you. The act of teaching another requires distilling complex material into simple and understandable terms: a valuable life skill. After studying with you, they leave encouraged with improved understanding, and you leave with a solid foundation of your basics.
  2. The Loyal Friend:  Many students complain that their academic life impedes on their the social life.  But I ask, why separate the two? Friends can provide comfort, support, and accountability, through both the A+ papers and the humiliating public presentations.  In my four undergraduate years, I only pulled one all-nighter which was mostly due to lack of planning. I met with a few close friends in a classroom underneath the library with the intention of keeping each other company for a few hours while working on our respective research papers. By 11 pm, when we realized our severe underestimation of the time allotment for the assignment, we resigned ourselves to camping out in the classroom. Obviously, we would have preferred to return to our dorm rooms to sleep, but we decided to make an event out of it. One elected tribute fetched donuts and coffee from the dining commons. Another configured a playlist of gladiator film scores and Disney songs to keep the mood both light and inspiring. And I, assumed dominion over the whiteboard, to make sure we did not forget about our other exam in the morning.  Alternating between periods of silent typing and loud pop quizzing, we completed our projects and shared many delirious and sleep-deprived laughs. Oddly, I look back on that night as one of my favorite college memories. It was far from the most pleasant or comfortable one, but I experienced that together we could tap into mental strength and energy reserves that would have otherwise remained dormant. Note: Don’t make a habit of all-nighters. Find a friend you like hanging out with, of similar study style, and show up consistently for one another.
  3. Your Class Rival : Taking great pleasure out of playing devil’s advocate, the class rival loves to argue–especially against you– and it drives you crazy. If you can’t find a match for this job description, stop looking for rivals in the wrong places.  A fight about the Pythagorean theorem in a  Geometry class can only progress so far. Instead, keep your eyes peeled in the more discussion-based courses. Open a can of worms to debate health care laws, predestination vs free will, or title nine, and the professor may have to step in as a referee to hold students back. Despite the frustration of mingling with your contrarian classmate, there are benefits in the two of you joining forces. Since they make your blood boil, you’ll naturally step up your game to stay competitive.  Expect them to find faults and poke holes in the weak parts of your argument—and learn to welcome that. In turn, this causes you to sharpen your case and open your mind. The debate process will lead both of you to discover new sources, gain understanding, and maybe even cultivate a respect for why the other person thinks the way they do.  Note: Argue logically–not just to be right– don’t forget to listen, and keep shouting to a minimum.
  4. Your Class Crush: So you’re kind of interested in someone but neither of you knows how to break the ice to ask about a real date?  Invite them to study with you, and chances are both your grade, and romantic outlook will improve.  Sorry to point out an uncomfortable truth about your priorities, but its highly unlikely you’ll bail on a study session when it entails spending several hours in close proximity with someone you’re attracted to. Whenever they open their mouth to explain a concept, you’ll pay attention and hang on to every word. Plus, those same chemicals that send the butterflies in your stomach buzzing also enhance memory. Go ahead and skip the caffeine to rest your adrenal glands! And academics aside, if you and this person actually have potential, studying can act as just the right type of starting ground.  Problem-solving provides an organic environment of collaboration on something beyond yourselves and naturally exposes strengths and weaknesses. For example, if someone chronically breaks down in fits of rage and neglects all responsibility under stress, it might take five coffee dates to figure out what you could have discovered in one study session. And who knows,  maybe they’ll find your diligence and devotion so captivating that they’ll cue the music to Six Pence None the Richer, and serenade you with  “…quiz me, beneath the milky twilight.”  Note: Avoid using this technique as attention fix. If you study with someone so often that others start ringing fake wedding bells when you walk in the library together, take a step back and talk about that. Keep academics the priority; dress modestly, and stay on task. 

What kind of people do you like to study with?


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