Book Reviews

Book by Marcia Y. Cantarella
Review by Lisa Novack
Office of Student Services
College of Biological Sciences
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities


Where can students turn for guidance and help on campus? What academic policies and procedures are common across campuses? What transitions can students expect during each year of college? These questions and more are addressed in Marcia Y. Cantarella’s I can finish college: The overcome any obstacle and get your degree guide.

The author draws upon her personal experience as a former dean to provide an informative, easy-to-read, and engaging guide for incoming college students and their families. The book presents an overview of college in chronological order, from deciding which college to attend to graduation ceremonies and alumni resources. In between, topics addressed include financial aid, study skills, and academic policies. Throughout the book, vignettes of diverse student scenarios support advice provided in the text. Minimal prior experience with higher education is necessary to understand and find value in the content as excerpts provide clarification and definitions for issues discussed. Readers will gain an understanding of the resources available in college and are encouraged to ask questions and seek assistance when facing challenges. In regards to academic advisors as a source of support, the author writes, “The adviser is trained not only in the rules of the school and curriculum but also to help support you in many ways, including during personal crises- he or she is your ally (p. 50).”

Advisors will find selected sections of this book relevant to their work with students. Perhaps most useful for advisors is chapter four, which presents an overview of degree requirements, course selection, and choosing a major in an easy-to-understand format. The content serves as a reminder of the curricular policies and procedures that are second nature to advisors, but may seem overwhelmingly complicated to students. Additionally, numerous study tips and time management strategies are explored in chapter eight that advisors may employ when working with students.

The main limitation of the book is that it lacks cited research to support recommendations and advice. Chapter seven highlights transitions students will encounter during college though the overview seems to be anecdotal and based on the author’s experiences versus grounded in research. Second, while the information throughout the book is general and applicable to various institutional types, any college guide cannot be “one-size-fits-all” for every institution as each college has unique policies, academic requirements, and organizational structures.

In summary, I can finish college serves as a valuable resource for incoming college students. Though not the target audience, academic advisors may also find the content helpful as it reinforces the questions and challenges students may encounter and the role we play in helping students complete their degrees.


I can finish college: The overcome any obstacle and get your degree guide. (2011). Book by Marcia Y. Cantarella. Review by Lisa Novack. New York: Cantarella Consulting. 240 pp. $17.85, ISBN # 978-0-557-71731-6
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