Have you Seen my Study Group? The True Story of the Left Behinds

It’s 7:45AM, and Charlie D. waits patiently in the Spangler cafeteria for his study group to arrive. He’s been waiting since 7AM, at the designated corner table, sipping his usual cup of joe. Unfortunately, it’s been three weeks since the “crew” last convened. Nevertheless, a determined Charlie quietly goes through his rituals by preparing a write-up and placing copies on the table. “Don’t worry”, he assures me, “they’ll definitely be here – it’s a 3-case day.”

Although it might sound a little depressing, Charlie’s struggle with denial is far from unusual during this time of year at HBS. Since March, students have, more and more, gradually been making that fateful decision to “take an extra hour of sleep”. No doubt resting more easily on positive summer job search results, a curve for the Fin2 exam and reaffirmation that a random 3 just ain’t that bad – the problem of motivating study group members is reaching historic proportions.

As a result, students like Charlie D. are comprising a new group of individuals, known on campus as the “Left Behinds” or LBs. These LBs struggle daily by preparing write-ups for all classes, trying to look “busy” in Spangler and responding to fantastic excuses from their study group peers,. “Once, when Steve and Vic came in late, they told me they were helping rescue a cat that was drowning in the Charles River,” remembers Charlie. “Then I find out they were up all night inhaling scorpion bowls at the Kong. I was disappointed, but not as much as I bet they were in themselves.”

As the study group phenomenon gradually goes old school, more students feeling left behind – like Charlie – can be found wandering aimlessly around the halls of Spangler. Flooded with post-it notes, the Cafeteria’s bulletin board holds messages that bring tears to even the most casual of bystanders. Messages read: “Missing: Micah Jindal, study group member, soul mate and lover”; “Missing: Token Consultant Guy, responds to the name TCG or Florian.” Other messages are more emotionally powerful: “Harald, if you’ve joined another study group, I won’t stop at Norway to hunt you down!” or “Carrie, I’m sorry for making fun of you for running numbers in LCA, please come back.”

The endless supply of Post-Its all carry a similarly nostalgic message that remind us of our first days at HBS, when, during orientation, ECs made it abundantly clear that study groups were at the core of the HBS experience. From finding the right mix of professional backgrounds to setting up interview rounds for potential study group members left us with one lasting impression: a study group was a spiritual partner. Which is why this break up has been so hard on Charlie: “I’ll never forget the first time I sat in on a study group as a prospective student. Sure they were mostly making fun of me for sitting in on a study group, but it was amazing to see how well they connected with each other.”

As with most breakups, many of the left behinds dwell constantly on what they did wrong. “One day”, says a choked up May Yu, a Left Behind of ND, “my group wanted to change tables and move closer to the window – and I was against it. I was nervous that it might upset the political balance among study groups. I wonder if that’s the reason I was left behind.”
“I thought it would be nice to make a mix tape,” says Catherine Kwei, also of ND “you know, a series of theme songs that summarized our eight months together. And that was the last I heard from them.”

Help is on the way as Career Services, with four months to kill, will hold sessions to match lost study group members, although Charlie does not expect it to be an easy path. “There’s no way you can replace the energy, the drive and sarcasm of the old team. I mean, that was powerful stuff, man.”

Following the interview, I was able to actually locate Charlie’s study group, and countless others. Having resettled down the street at the Bus Stop, the animated bunch was excited to start class – but not excited to rejoin the crew at Spangler.

“Charlie who?” asked Charlie’s old study buddy Vikram Alexander of NH. “Oh yeah, the sweater guy. I’m sure he’ll be fine, I mean, it’s May already. Let it go man!”

Time to let it go indeed and to all those Left Behind, hang in there – help is only a Deep Dive away.

May 2, 2005
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