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How I Write and Learn

In this new blog series, “Ask a Coach!” our Writing and Learning Center coaches answer our UNC-CH undergrads’ burning questions! Check back every month to see what our coaches have to say about everything from taking breaks to utilizing office hours! 

How can I effectively study with friends?

Learning Coach Jacob stands with his thumbs up in a frame that says "How I Write and Learn Blog" and at the bottom "Jacob - Anthropology PhD Student and S. Club 7's Biggest Fan." The frame has a blue background with yellow and red dashesJacob: When I was in undergrad, I was part of an athletic team that often studied together each night after practice. I quickly found out that just because someone is a good friend……….does not mean they are a good study buddy…….and that is ok! It took me a semester or two but I eventually figured out the spaces and environments where I worked best. This included who I was working with. I studied most effectively with friends by working with someone who had a similar study strategy and goal as myself. It was also crucial that we set our goals at the beginning of each study session so we could help each other achieve them instead of distracting each other with the latest team gossip. 

Learning Coach Yi-Hsuan stands with his thumbs up in a frame that says "Yi-Hsuan - Political Science PhD Student I LOVE Fries (even cold) " The frame has a blue background with yellow and red dashesYi-Hsuan: Studying with friends can be a good way to keep yourself motivated and accountable, if you are actually studying! I find that the biggest challenge is studying can soon slip into chit-chatting. So, to make it work, I am always selective about who I’m studying with. It might be better to study with someone who prefers a calm study environment. Also, before you sit down, set a goal together. What do you plan to finish in these couple of hours? And what are some fun things you can do as a reward when y’all finish? This will allow you to hold each other accountable. And knowing that you can enjoy the time together after work will help you to avoid falling into chatting mode easily. 


MicLearning Coach Michael stands with his thumbs up in a frame that says "Michael - School of Edu PhD student I've watched indoor skiing (in-person) while dining at a cheesecake factory” The frame has a blue background with yellow and red dasheshael: Studying with friends can be a lot of fun, but if we’re just studying together (not a group project or we’re studying different things), staying focused can be a challenge if I keep getting drawn into conversations. I’ve always studied well with music on in the background so I typically will have a pair of earbuds in a phone/laptop whenever I’m working (typically with one earbud in to start). That gives me some music, some conversation and if I need to hone in my work and distractions are around, I’ll pop in the other earbud to focus in on my work for a song or two. It’s a pretty clear signal that I’m trying to focus on my work so my friends will typically continue on or focus on their own work until we both reach a nice stopping point. 

Aiden: Studying in an environment that works for everyone is helpful. For example, I’ve had times in a dorm room where someone is on their bed, someone is on their desk, someone is pacing the floor, etc. Additionally, it’s important to prioritize work that absolutely must be done. If I tell someone I’m working on an assignment that’s due by midnight and that I don’t want to be distracted by conversation, they should respect that and not try to engage me in any conversation that might arise within parts of the group that might not be working as urgently. Studying with friends can be fun if everyone communicates and works together to create a space that is helpful for everyone!


This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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