College Rules!: How To Study, Survive, And Succeed In College, by Sherrie Nist-Olejnik & Jodi Patrick Holschuh
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/10 Speed Press in exchange for an honest review.]
For the most part, this is a pleasant and engaging read from two professors who do their best over the course of this slightly longer than 300 page book to encourage the reader, intended as either a young adult or an older person returning to college after years in the workforce, to succeed in college. As someone who from time to time reads about such matters , this book comes across as a mixture of serious fun, with a clear purpose and intent by the author to encourage successful behavior, as well as sometimes sad notes on those who have made serious errors that the reader can learn from in the course of their college. They are especially interested in the psychology of the professors, about which they have much to say, like the following: “Your professors are actually just regular folks who happen to have lots of education. When they look out over the sea of faces in a class, they see students who are bright, capable, and have a real desire to learn.” That is what I have seen, after all, whenever I have taught any sort of class over the course of my life so far, and therefore rings true with my experience as both a student and teacher.
The contents and structure of this book are organized for a disciplined reader. There are twenty-five chapters in the slightly more than 300 pages of the book, making each chapter between ten and fifteen pages on average. The chapters include content on the transition between high school and college, where to find help, a few words about professors, selecting courses and a major, adjusting to the demands of college, technology and learning, time management, motivation, learning orientation, stress management, how students learn, beliefs about learning, concentration while studying, the importance of knowing a course syllabus, understanding the expectations of professors, note taking strategies, vocabulary, active reading, improving memory through reflecting, rehearsing, reviewing, and monitoring information, studying smarter, research and presentations, preparing for objective and essay exams, and some final words and frequently asked questions. As might be expected, the information that is covered is done so in a thorough fashion, and each chapter is peppered with boxes of useful information discussing apps, and sections like “use it or lose it,” “listen up,” “sad but true,” “urban legend,” “do your homework,” and “for adults only” sections for returning students. Each of the chapters is also full of interesting and insightful quotes as well as research taken from the authors’ extensive body of work concerning learning and education.
Nevertheless, in all of the material covered in the book there is a large aspect of college life and its aftermath that is entirely neglected, and that is the matter of college debt and the general question of whether college is worth it. Although there is some discussion of careers and majors that are either career oriented or not, and at least one reference to older women seeking one particular scholarship named after Jeanette Rankin, the authors pointedly avoid the thorny discussion of college debt and its consequences . Given the tenuous relationship between academic achievement and the standard of living of many graduates, the authors’ silence with regards to the question of who is going to pay for the education and how it is to be paid is deafening. Given the high level of detail contained in the rest of the book, it seems impossible that the subject slipped their minds altogether, but it is uncharitable to think that they avoided talking about the question because it would be threatening to their aim of encouraging people to go to college and to support their own standard of living and those of their fellow professors. Sometimes what is not written is as important as what is, and the fact that financial matters are a great source of stress for students while they are in college and for many years afterward is something that deserved mention. After all, college is supposed to be an aid to success and survival in life, and succeeding in college itself is only the first task of adulthood for many people. After that, college is supposed to pay dividends, something that for all too many people is simply not the case.
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