As a humanities/social sciences student, readings dominate my life at Princeton. It’s why in my first semester, I left large gaps in between my classes. This way, I could spread my assignments throughout the day, and spend time with my friends at night.
I also mostly worked alone in my first semester. I thought doing homework with my friends would be too distracting. I love to join in on conversations, but sometimes we’d get so deep in discussion that my plans to read that next page, write that next paragraph, outline that next paper went out the window. Additionally, I was surrounded by STEM students in my Zee Group. They were not interested in, nor did they ask about, my readings, and likewise, I was not interested in, nor did I ask about, their problem sets. Yet the more I worked alone last September, the more I missed having somebody to parallel play with while still socializing.
Enter the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. Beyond the peer tutoring sessions, academic strategies workshops, and learning consultations, there is also the fairly new Study Partners Program. You first fill out an interest form, after which McGraw matches you with your study partner via email. From there, you and your study partner exchange contact information and decide where/when you want to study.
All of the selections are random, which I appreciated when I was a freshman. While it is important to befriend students in your home residential college, often by way of your zee group, it’s equally important to branch out and meet students in other residential colleges. Who knows? They could have the same academic interests as you!
I lucked out with my study partner, who I now consider one of my closest friends at Princeton. He lives up north at Rockefeller “Rocky” College, and I down south at Forbes College. But despite being on opposite ends of campus, he, too, loves the humanities and social sciences. During our study sessions at Firestone Library, he would annotate his Politics readings and I would annotate my Philosophy readings. We also took turns discussing what we were learning. It’s not unusual for us, even now, to exchange book recommendations from our classes (with dashes of us sharing our extracurricular activities).
Having a study partner has also not been as distracting as I previously thought. We hold each other accountable by setting personal goals, as well as offering help to each other. For instance, he helped me brainstorm for my papers when I took my writing seminar last spring, and I offered encouraging words while he studied for finals. It’s because of this reciprocity that more often than not, we achieved our goals.
Don’t get me wrong. Some students work better alone—I do if I’m under a major deadline—but regardless, I highly recommend the McGraw Study Partners Program to all incoming students. Not only will you be building yourself a support system and finding someone to parallel play with, but you might also make a friend in the process.