Book Reviews

Book By: Tobolowsky, Barbara F., Mamrick, Marla, and Cox, Bardley E.
Review By: Julia Beth Rey
Senior Career / Cooperative Education Counselor
Cumberland County College

The 2003 National Survey of First-Year Seminars: Continuing Innovations in the Collegiate Curriculum is a text worthy of purchase by any academic advising division serving incoming students. It is important that academic advisors know how to answer student questions such as “Who has to take Freshman Seminar?” or “What do the other schools teach in New Student Orientation classes?” This book provides reliable statistics to answer these questions.

This book provides statistical data compiled from results of surveys of 771 institutions (total response percentage was 23.7%). Interestingly, 142 (18.4%) of the responding institutions did not offer a first-year seminar while 629 did (p. 21).

While layout of this text is easy to follow, there is no glitz or glamour here -- no eye-catching graphics or pie charts. Survey results are presented as simple black and white data. Thus, the book is not one to be read page-by-page (unless you enjoy table and numbers). Instead it is a resource worth keeping on the shelf for writing those first-year seminar reports.

Virtually every component of a freshman seminar class was surveyed. Many tables are broken down to reflect both two-year and four-year institutions. This allows for reporting of more specific information. This reader would have found it helpful if the actual survey questions had been placed with the tables rather than at the end of the book. Upon reading the questions, it became obvious that no negative information was collected. Although positive/neutral information is always helpful, knowing negative views of what could/should be changed would be helpful.

How can academic advisors utilize this book? Perhaps the most obvious answer is for data. The text makes a wonderful instructor accompaniment for new student courses. It can answer the “why” questions of students who state that Freshman Seminar is “a waste of time.” This book provides academic advisors with reliable data to help students understand seminar relevancy to college and success. Specific mention should be given to Table 7.86 (p. 90), the “Results Attributed to First-Year Seminars Across All Institutions.” This table provides the frequency and percentage of objectives for Freshman Seminar courses; this data can truly be an asset for any academic advisor.

Positive text features worth noting include the depth and variety of information reported. Statistics on virtually all areas of first-year seminars are listed with a description of the chart. Unfortunately, the text’s simple design and lack of color and graphics do not promote reader engagement for additional searches; rather it prompts the reader to find what he/she is seeking and go no further. Even so, the text will be a valuable addition to any research library and should be considered for purchase.

The 2003 National Survey of First-Year Seminars: Continuing Innovations in the Collegiate Curriculum.  (2005). Book by Tobolowsky, Barbara F., Mamrick, Marla, and Cox, Bardley E. Review by Julia Beth Rey. National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students In Transition. (127 pp.), $35.00. ISBN #1-889271-49-7.

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