Book Reviews

Book By: Miller, T. E., Bender, B. E., & Schuh, J. H. (Eds)
Review By: Kurt Xyst
Undergraduate Advising
University of Washington

Promoting Reasonable Expectations: Aligning Student and Institutional Views of the College Experience examines a range of factors involved in the mutually negotiated understanding between colleges and their students; the central tension being the degree to which this relationship exists at all. Do students know what to expect when they enroll and do institutions know much about their students?

The editors bring together chapter authors who relate the campus environment to the business of the institution, discuss the importance of expectations and empirical data concerning those expectations, provide insight from various stakeholders within higher education, and craft an especially useful reflection and conclusions section.

Naturally, certain chapters are more useful for the advising community. Ardaiolo, Bender, and Roberts express a particularly concise mission for current higher education leaders and professionals: “The fundamental challenge facing colleges today is to change the expectations of incoming students, their attitudes and their beliefs about how they think about their school setting, academic work, and their own relationship to their academic institutions” (p. 91). Text authors solidly expound upon that assertion and explain why this work is important and necessary.

Promoting Reasonable Expectations reinforces some of the trends sited by Pascarella and Terenzini. This new collection explores one of the central difficulties with studying the impact of college -- one that Pascarella and Terenzini wrestled with as well -- the value added effect of going to college. Kuh and Pace attempt to address this issue with their College Student Expectation Questionnaire (CSEQ). Though the empirical correlations are interesting and lead to some unexpected connections (such as better course performance and lower hours of study), nothing conclusive emerges.

The last section of the text weaves together interesting threads from the different authors and offers direct insight. A primary conclusion is that colleges need to better communicate their business. Smaller schools obviously have an easier time reaching this goal than do larger research schools. Nonetheless, if colleges and universities are to be effective, then they need to know who is showing up and why. Schools must meet students where they are if they hope to have any chance of influencing them. Such influence is often a central goal of higher education yet one, the editors argue, that is least effectively communicated.

What emerges from this collected work is support for the argument that advisors must actively understand the expectations of their students. Habley (1981) states that "academic advising is the only structured activity on the campus in which all students have the opportunity for on-going, one-to-one interaction with a concerned representative of the institution." As such advisors actively shape the boundaries and nature of student engagement and frustration with their school. They are perfectly situated to ask the questions that illuminate the student perspectives; to “find” the student and lead her in the direction of institutional success. As a tool of professional development, Promoting Reasonable Expectations is valuable in the training of advisors and their administrators. In this capacity, Promoting Reasonable Expectations can serve as a patchy but workable alternative to Pascarella and Terenzini’s gold standard.


Habley, W. R. (1981). "Academic Advising: Critical Link in Student Retention." NASPA Journal, 28(4): 45-50

Kuh, G. D., & Pace, C. R. (1999). College student expectations questionnaire (2nd ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University, Center for Postsecondary Research.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How College Affects Students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Promoting Reasonable Expectations: Aligning Student and Institutional Views of the College Experience. (2003). Book by Miller, T. E., Bender, B. E., & Schuh, J. H. (Eds). Review by Kurt Xyst. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 288 pp. Price $36.00 ISBN 0-7879-7624-5.

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