The Secrets of College Success by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman is a must for all college-bound students and their parents. The book, published in 2010 by the Professors’ Guide, contains over 600 practical tips to protect students’ (and their parents’) expensive investment in college education. While there are many college guides on the market, this book is written by professors who truly have the inside track on how colleges work, and the spot-on information is presented in the form of do/don’t lists that are easy for students to take in. Here is some of their important advice for college-bound students:
Tip #1: Use the Summer Before College Wisely
During the summer before college, there is a lot students can do to get their college career off to the right start. They can download their class syllabi on the college’s website, and they can start acquainting themselves with class requirements. If students know their college’s foreign language requirement, for example, students can refine their language skills over the summer or take a class to make sure they are up to speed to meet their college’s requirements.
Tip #2: Become Independent from Mom and Dad
Hyman and Jacobs make the point that students who are used to calling their parents to get advice may find that they need to rely on themselves in college. Even well-meaning parents may not know how to guide their children in college, the authors suggest. Current college life has also changed a great deal from when Mom and Dad were in school.
Tip #3: Get Help from your Professors
Many students erroneously view their professors as frightening and unapproachable, but as Jacobs and Hyman suggest, professors want to help students. Successful college students can get assistance from professors during office hours, Skype sessions, or through e-mail contact. Bottom line: Use your professors, and benefit from their help. The authors also help students through the nitty-gritty of selecting courses and through handling issues such as being closed out of a class. They also alert students to the reality that many college courses are taught by graduate students, even first-year graduate students. They advise students to look for courses taught by experienced full-time faculty members.
Tip #4: Understand—Don’t Just Memorize
As Hyman and Jacobs point out, college courses ask students to do more than just memorize. Instead, college-level work requires students to synthesize and analyze large amounts of information, and most of this work is done outside of class. Students should learn how to prepare well for finals and large tests independently.
The Secrets of College Success also helps students by providing tips on how to write solid essays and handle tests, and the authors provide information about common first-year classes such as Freshman Composition. They also help students navigate study abroad programs. While this book is packed with useful, easy-to-digest information, in my mind, their first bit of advice—“You’re in charge of this thing”--is the most critical. For example, many private school graduates have been the beneficiaries of a great deal of parental and teacher attention. Their classes are small, and their teachers get to know them well. However, in college, students often have large lectures and long-term assignments that they will have to complete on their own. Before arriving on campus, students should develop a system to organize themselves, including completing their work on their own and going to their classes and appointments on time. College is an expensive investment, and students should know how to make the most of it.