Studying Together In-Person

Working with other students is an effective way to master challenging course material. This guide will help you work together, in-person, following Cornell’s Covid-19 Guidelines.

Steps to Setting up an In-Person Study Group

  1. Find other students to study with.
    • You may prefer to study with your friends, but it turns out people often learn best when they study with people who think differently than they do. Be open to studying with people you might not otherwise hang out with.
    • Five is a good number to plan for, but even if it’s just you and a study buddy you can still benefit from working together.
    • Your professors may set up systems in their courses for students to work together outside of class. Start by asking your professor or TA if your course has a system for matching students into study groups.
    • If there is no system in your course for matching students into study groups, check back here soon for more info.
  2. Decide how often you want to meet (once or twice a week is ideal) and find a time that works for everyone in your group.
  3. If you change your mind about studying with other people, let the students you’ve been in contact with know that your plans have changed so they can move forward planning without you. Because of Covid-19: once you’ve started meeting you all need to commit to attending study sessions unless you leave Ithaca or are in quarantine or isolation. Your group’s membership should not change once you get started.
  4. Reserve a location for your meetings that will allow your group to meet in-person while you follow Cornell’s Covid-19 physical-distancing guidelines. Students can use Cornell Chatter to reserve a room.
  5. Find out from your professor the specific course expectations for students working together. This may be in the syllabus, if it is not, email the professor to ask. Each class has its own unique expectations, it is up to your group to ensure that you are not violating academic integrity and that you are following your professor’s guidelines for group work.

For your first meeting:

Establish group expectations/ground rules. For healthy group dynamics it is essential that you agree ahead of time on these issues before they come up: phone use during meetings, prioritizing agenda topics, equal participation/sharing airspace, treating each other respectfully, communication preferences and plans, and whatever other topics your group members identify as important. What are your plans to stay connected remotely with group members who may become unable to attend in-person?

It’s especially important to agree ahead of time on what you will be doing together in study group, within your course’s expectations for group work. Will you be doing homework, making study guides, reviewing confusing topics? Tip: reviewing all the lecture slides together is not a good use of everyone’s time. Reviewing specific confusing slides is a good use of time.

Consider rotating roles within your study group so that no one gets burned out. Some roles that are good to rotate include:

  • hosting (setting up or handling the logistics of the meeting space following COVID guidelines and inviting others to it)
  • facilitating (leads the meeting, makes sure everyone gets to contribute)
  • timekeeping
  • info gathering (goes to TA or professor office hours or tutoring to clarify questions the group was not able to answer)

Group Generated Summary

This is important! Start each of your study sessions talking/taking notes on what topics/ideas were covered in class this week. Have your course materials (book, notes, etc) handy. Students often want to jump right into homework or problem-solving, but taking just a few minutes to reflect and get an overview of what you are learning in class is invaluable to seeing the big picture and making connections among important concepts. Doing 10-15 minutes of this big picture thinking each week is like money in the bank when preparing for exams. Doing this with other students can help you see information you might have missed and consider concepts from a different perspective.

Sample Agenda for a 1 hour meeting

  • Image of Study Group AgendaCheck in-how is everyone doing? (5 minutes)
  • Reminder of this week’s roles (1 minute)
  • Group generated summary (10-15 minutes)
  • Group members list which topics/problems they would like to work on, facilitator leads vote to decide how to prioritize (5 minutes)
  • Get to work! (30 minutes, longer if this is a longer meeting—schedule in a 5 minute break for every 60 minutes you meet together, but remember to stay physically distanced!)
  • Wrap up: what are your plans for next time? (5 minutes)

Download a Template Study Group Agenda (Word document) to use.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if you get stuck?
If you find that you’re stuck on a confusing topic or problem you can go as a group to office hours or tutoring. If you find that your group could use some help working effectively together, LSC can help. Email Learning Strategies Center learningstrategiescenter@cornell.edu and ask for a study group consultation.

What if you’re worried about members of your group?
There is so much going on right now, these are truly difficult times. Cornell really is a caring community, and if you have concerns about the health or well being of one of your group members please reach out for help. Cornell Health has some great mental health resources, including a 24/7 help line.

How do I find a room to study with my group?
You can now reserve space in rooms designated for studying through the “Book a Study Space” feature, available in Cornell Chatter (website and app). Learn how to use the feature to reserve a quiet space for reading, writing, listening; an interactive space to use Zoom or other videoconferencing; or a small group space. Remember your masks and hand sanitizer!


Would you like to learn more?