Book Reviews

BkRv #1780, Dean’s  List: 10 Strategies for College Success, Bader, John, ISBN: 978-1-4214-2237-4, 2017

Anita Carter

University Advising Center

Wayne State University

acarter@wayne.edu

This book takes a different approach from other college success books I have read in the past. Instead of an expected “do this, not that” type of book. It has a conversational style and a completely different approach. It introduces 10 strategies to approach a college education thoughtfully beyond “how to get an A”. The author encourages students to focus on the process rather than the outcome, more on the learning and less on the GPA. The author invites the reader to view a college education for its own pleasure, and appreciate it as a selfless act of generosity from those who made it possible (Bader, 2017 p.12).

The book includes contributors to the book in addition to the main author. Deans from various colleges and universities around the country add weight to the strategies. These contributions are added to the appropriate chapters as insets and identified by name, title, and institution, providing an additional “voice” to the author’s strategy. The names and full credentials are added at the end of the book as helpful references.

The tone of the book is one of encouragement and the focus is about how to make college meaningful and get the most out of the experience. It addresses the down-side of the focus on grades that sometimes take precedent over learning and discovery, while deflating the self-criticism that often accompanies the quest to be the best.

One of the best suggestions offered by the book is to think of the lecture and textbooks as a conversation between the material and the student’s interior thoughts about the meaning of what is being presented.  Instead of a “how to” this offers students strategies on how to truly engage in learning rather than memorizing.  The strategies offered by this book and thought provoking and will take a student beyond the normal approaches to study. In addition to strategies for learning, the book also takes on topics of majors, diversity, relationships with parents, and failure.

The two chapters on failing were especially good, in that they normalized failure as something that is part of life and needs to be embraced. The authors even suggest that it is how we handle failure that defines who we are (Bader, 2017 p.140).  The book does an excellent job of addressing the issue and gives very specific reason why students may fail that are beyond the normal reasons students may hear and ways to address the underlying causes.

Perfect for a First-Year Seminar, in its focus on re-defining what a successful college experience is, it encourages students to embrace the discomfort of the “new” rather than turning away from what may be uncomfortable, so as not to cheat themselves of a richer life and a larger world (Bader, 2017 p.17). I intend to recommend this book as required reading for our University’s First-Year Seminar course.

For advisors, this book would be very helpful in giving weight to what we tell our students about success, selecting majors and how to make the most of their time in college.  The advising staff should read this book and recommend it to their students--not just freshman, but every student. There is a wealth of information that will benefit students at every stage in their college journey.

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