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Monday, August 18, 2008

Got College Questions? Ask the "Experts" with Easty-to-Read Guide

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

College is all about thinking for yourself, but the authors of How to Survive Your Freshman Year by Hundreds of College Students Who Did (and some things to avoid, from a few dropouts who didn't) aim to prove that many heads are actually better than the mind of one scared, confused freshman. In their definitive (yet not so definitive) guide, Mark Bernstein and Yadin Kaufmann follow the easy style of past Hundreds of Heads how-to books to dole out advice to first-time college students. The book offers expert opinions on everything from stocking your dorm room to choosing classes to getting along with roommates. The experts? Current and former students (oh yeah, and a handful of dropouts).

The book is divided into sections, each with a skimpy introduction and several pages of advice from the experts I described above. Their responses are honest and unfiltered, written in their own, individual voices. It really is like sitting down and chatting with a group of friends. Of course, some of those friends are wise, some are funny, and some are downright bizarre. So beware. Just like having a real conversation, you have to filter out the good advice from the bad. The authors draw no conclusions for you. Thus, if you're looking for a definitive guide, this may not be the one for you. Still, I think the "experts" come up with some pretty good stuff.

Like I said, some of the students are wise, instructing freshmen to bring with them patience, an open mind and a "blank slate" (7). Others are completely practical, advising dorm dwellers to communicate with their roommates during the summer so they can get to know each other and avoid bringing duplicate items. Some of the information rates high on the "duh" scale, as when Hilary Tress, a junior at New York University says, "Bring warm clothes if you go to school up north. I'm from Miami and I didn't know what a winter coat was. Now I have a couple, and an umbrella" (7). My favorite advice is from the class clowns, who chime in with these gems:

"If you're going to steal furniture for your dorm room, steal it from the lounge. They won't find it until they spray for bugs over spring break - then you only have a few weeks of classes left anyway." - J.G., Florida State University, Graduate (p. 59)

"Do a lot of things your mother would disapprove of. Tattoos, body piercing, spring break trips; as long as you can act like an adult, the sky's the limit." - Anonymous, Mississippi State University (p. 215)

"Fall in love with someone in your class right away; student, T.A., professor, whomever. You'll be hard-pressed to skip class. If there is no one in your class to love, then pick someone to hate and show up every day to make his or her life a living hell." - S.P., University of Georgia, Graduate (p. 107)

Like I said, the students' advice remains unfiltered, touching topics like drinking, drugs and having sex in the dorms. I have to say upfront that I went through 4 years of college without doing any of those things, but apparently, life at the most sober school in America (BYU) is not considered normal. The book also covers topics I never had to deal with, considering things like Facebook and MySpace were not around back in the Dark Ages when I went to college. So, even though some of the information won't be relevant to you personally, How to Survive Your Freshman Year does offer some good, solid information for college-bound freshman. Given its quick, easy format, this is one book a new freshman might actually read.

Grade: B


  1. "Do lots of things your parents disagree with"... ha. Great advice at any age.

  2. just curious what made you read this book? But I did like the review :)

  3. Kim - LOL

    Katie - I review books for Pump Up Your Book Promotion author tours, hence the banner at the bottom of the review. Each month, they send me a list of authors on tour, and I choose which books I want to review. I thought this one sounded easy and interesting. It's been a few years (like 14) since I was a college freshman!

  4. Hundreds of Heads sent me a big ole box of books including this one.

    They are really quite entertaining and useful.


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