Book Review: The Secrets of College Success

Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman. The Secrets of College Success: Over 600 Tips & Tricks Revealed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. 224 pages.

Most college graduates feel that, if they’d have known everything going in that they knew when they graduated, they would have had a much better time. THE SECRETS OF COLLEGE SUCCESS looks to fill that information gap, and it succeeds, with a few caveats. Generally, there’s no real “secrets” in here; a student would be able to learn everything in here on his or her own, but reading this book will save them a lot of time and frustration, which makes it worth it.

Essentially, the book runs through what college is (and isn’t), how the prepare for school, how to time-manage and study correctly, picking and taking classes, taking tests, and dealing with the inevitable unforeseen circumstances. It’s eminently readable–though the 224 pages are filled with useful information, they fly by pretty quickly–and the numerous numbered lists are great for future reference.

All of the tips are useful–I thought the chapter on picking courses and professors was particularly good, and I’m going to make sure to refer back to the “thirteen surefire signs of a bad professor” section to make sure I’m not slipping.

Like I said above, many of the “secrets” aren’t secret at all. For example, the “10 ways to whip the Freshman comp requirement” list includes: 1. go to class and 2. do all the work assigned. This seems pretty obvious, but it’s good that the authors remind students not to take shortcuts. Many of the tips are similarly rooted in common sense, and hopefully through repetition they sink in.

One caveat about the “partner with your professor” chapter. Yes, professors find it gratifying when students take an interest in their work, but there’s definitely a line there. Students, don’t assume that your professors live, breath, and sleep your course material. Even if they are passionate about teaching, they’ve probably got lots of stuff to do outside of class. Sometimes, showing too much interest in the class can be a little creepy. Just tackle the subject matter with confidence and curiosity, and you’ll be fine.

As someone who teaches, I found this book to be a great guide for students; even if they already know what to do, this book will confirm that they’re doing it right. If not, it’ll show them how to improve their grades and enjoyment of college. I would definitely get this book for a new college student, and will recommend it in the future.

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