Book by Terry Arndt and Kirrin Coleman
Review by Laura R. Pittman
Academic Advisor, University College
Ball State University, Indiana
If advisors could present incoming freshman with a comprehensive handbook outlining how to approach the college experience, Life During College: Your Guide to Success would certainly find itself among the resources that would be offered. The book has a light, conversational tone reflective of a guidebook making it easy-to-read and covering a vast amount of topics like campus safety, learning styles, grading systems, credit cards, and homesickness.
Perhaps most appealing to academic advisors is an entire chapter on “Academic Planning” which explains the role of the advisor and advisee highlighting information on: choosing a major, creating a plan for graduation, and scheduling classes. Arndt & Coleman loosely define the academic advisor as a “mentor” and list characteristics of a “good academic advisor” as well as “the best academic advisor”. The “good advisor” characteristics tend to be more task-oriented such as helping the student to develop a class schedule and navigate the add/drop process. The “best advisor” characteristics are less tangible and more relational such as showing interest in the student’s academic development and inspiring the student. More significant and possibly more helpful to the students are the sections of the chapter that effectively place responsibility on the student without directly stating “It is not your academic advisor’s responsibility to do this for you.”
Many aspects of the publication are equally helpful for both students and advisors. Advisors could easily use it as a resource to highlight research and statistics pertinent to students, as the authors site a number of studies and statistics throughout the publication. Advisors could also use some of the charts and activities as visuals when talking to students; a chart in the chapter on “Communication,” “Note Taking & Study Skills” walks a student through how to evaluate when to study and where. Because most chapters are less than 10 pages and all chapters contain short, one-page sub-topics, the information lends itself towards being easy-to-share in even very short advising meetings.
Although this is a great tool for the traditional-aged student coming to a college directly from high school, it is not as desirable for adult learners particularly because of the voice that is used in the book. For example, a chapter on banking describes a piggy bank sitting “mutely in the corner of your room” which may be accurate for some teenagers, but probably not for an older adult student that may already have a checking account and credit history. A chapter on roommates casually points out that the student’s former roommates “Mom or Dad or a sibling was right there to remind you of your duties and check your attitude” (p. 125). Obviously this is a big assumption that the reader hails from a traditional-type family, when many of our students may come from homes that don’t include parents (or siblings) or in which they act as the parent.
Despite these drawbacks, much of the information is to all students. Every student could benefit from many aspects of the book including: how to deal with test anxiety, what types of loans may be available, and how to respect your academic advisor’s schedule and time. While the publication is targeted towards a very specific kind of student, it does serve as a well-written, accessible guidebook for those students and their parents and can be a useful resource for their academic advisors as well.
Life during college: Your guide to success (3rd Edition). (2011). Book by Terry Arndt and Kirrin Coleman. Review by Laura R. Pittman. Bainbridge Island, WA: Life After Graduation, LLC. 176 pp. $24.95. ISBN 978-0-9700944-9-0