Review by Pooja M. Sampat
University Advisement Center- Freshmen Office
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
At first glance How to Survive your Freshmen Year does not seem like the typical book that most advisors would read. The title itself is misleading in making one feel like the book is written for a specific audience when in fact the book has wonderful anecdotes for advisors as well. The book focuses on what the experience of going to college is all about and has a great balance of advice from both an academic and non-academic sense. Unlike most prose that follow a narrative style, this book uses excerpts from hundreds of students, advisors, and administrators all grouped together giving advice on all aspects of college life.
A good majority of the book focuses on what I call the transitional aspects of going to college which include things to bring, how to make friends, eating well, personal life and just about anything else that deals with the change from high school to college including the more controversial issues of sex and partying; “When you’re at a party, try to think about the next morning. Ask yourself the questions: Will I be able to look at myself in the mirror?”(pg.333). Although it may seem like this information does not pertain to advising it’s all too often that advisors play the role of counselors helping their students adjust to the new atmosphere. Having worked predominately with freshmen students, I see on a daily basis how establishing oneself in college life can drastically change a students academic progression in both a positive and negative manner. We all have seen the student that “partied too much” which was reflected in their grades, but we also see the students that learned to manage it all and thrive. This book helps show students that balance; the fine line between having fun and working hard.
Outside the transitional aspects, How to Survive your Freshmen Year provides great insight on the academics of college including how to study for exams, become involved on campus, gaining leadership experiences, study abroad and lots of personal advise on how to get the balance between everything just right. Having entries from advisors, retention specialist, LGBTQ coordinators and other professionals across the university helps round out the vast amount of advice presented in this book and gives the reader an opportunity to see things from a professional’s point of view.
While I enjoyed the advice presented in the book, it is a bit challenging to read from cover to cover due to the unorthodox style of writing. I found myself skimming through sections as the vast amount of opinions became slightly overbearing. However, the book does provide great talking points that can be used with your students to make sure that they are transitioning into college well and finding the balance between fun and work that is so imperative to successful college students. It is also a great way to engage students in first year programs by having them write their own entry for the next cohort of freshmen. It may not be a book that they will read from cover to cover, but it will be a great resource to share with your students, especially if you are working with freshmen.
How to Survive your Freshmen Year. (2013). Review by Pooja M. Sampat, M.S. Atlanta, GA: Hundreds of Heads. 322pp., $15.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-933512-61-7