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Book Review: The Praeger Handbook for College Parents

There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve created lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. Check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  This review considers The Praeger Handbook for College Parents by Helen W. Akinc.  This book serves well as a handbook of information about how college works and can be a wonderful resource for familiarizing parents with the college experience.

Perhaps two of the greatest strengths of The Praeger Handbook for College Parents are the wealth of knowledge shared regarding college policies, procedures and rationales, and its focus on the college experience as a time of learning rather than simply career preparation.

Helen Akinc brings to her book her years of experience as an instructor, advisor and administrator.  Akinc uses her familiarity with so many aspects of college functions to provide parents with useful information about not only how, but why, college administrations may do the things that they do.  The Praeger Handbook begins with an important discussion of whether or not college is the best next step for all students and follows with an examination of how college differs from high school.  Both parents and students will benefit from these topics.  The author then considers the more academic aspects of college (curricular) and the social and extracurricular aspects.  Parents will find many of the insider’s viewpoints extremely helpful.

Akinc also presents in her book a strong case for college as a place and time of learning rather than simply career preparation.  In an age of high college costs and increasing calls for accountability, we applaud her emphasis on learning and liberal arts.  She states her position clearly.  “Sometimes parents, a few faculty, and administrators voice the viewpoint that a student’s ability to get a job is the goal of the university experience.  Although that is certainly desirable, hopefully that is not the primary reason for attending the university.  The ability to secure meaningful employment is a related benefit, but it is not the measure of a person’s education or success at school . . . The student who is viewing college as a giant checklist on the way to greener pastures will miss out on the university experience and will find that those pastures are not as green as they appeared to be.”  It is good for both parents and students to be reminded of the broader goals of a college education.

We like Akinc’s straight-forward, no nonsense approach to reminding parents that their role as college parents is different from their previous parenting roles.  Because the author has spent her career working with college students, she is in a strong position to caution parents based on the actual students she has encountered.  In one instance, in a discussion regarding helping students choose a college major, she reminds parents that they are not (or should not be) in control of the student’s choice of major.  “Far too often parents insist that their daughter or son major in a particular area. . . Who is being educated here?  Whose life and future are at stake? Yes, most of this behavior is motivated by parents who want the very best for their sons and daughters . . . But this kind of controlling, dictatorial behavior is not usually helpful and is often harmful as well as unsuccessful.”  While respecting parents’ motivations, Akinc makes it clear that parents need to take a secondary role.

The one small drawback that we encountered in The Praeger Handbook for College Parents is the occasional difficulty is locating specific topics.  Many topics are covered in the book, and for parents who will read the book from front cover to back, there is little problem.  However, as a handbook, which will hopefully serve as an ongoing reference to parents throughout the college years, locating some specific topics is more troublesome. Some of the valuable information covered appears in unlikely places.   The section on Orientation and Move-in Day in chapter three, for instance, contains much useful information on crucial topics: cars for freshmen, roommates, placement tests, alcohol education, fraternity parties, extracurricular activities, and academic advising. Parents looking for information on these topics later may find it difficult to locate them in this early chapter.  Perhaps a more detailed index would alleviate this problem.  We believe that one of the more valuable aspects of this book is that it will be useful to parents throughout their student’s college career.  Easy access to needed information will be important as the book is used for reference.

The Praeger Handbook for College Parents is an important reference for parents.  It provides a wealth of information and reminds parents how to help their student succeed.

About the author:

Helen W. Akinc currently teaches intercultural competency at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she previously served as Assistant Dean for Student Professional Services in the Calloway School of Business and Accountancy.  She has served as a member of the advising, orientation, and student life committees.  In 2001 she won the university-wide award for excellence in advising.  In addition to her current teaching, Ms. Akinc now writes, travels, cooks ethnic food and volunteers.  She brings her considerable experience in higher education to this handbook for parents.

What the author has to say about the book:

“Working at a university, it is easy for me to recognize that parents want to be supportive and want to help their children get the most out of their college experience.  It is also easy to see that parents often do not know how best to help their sons and daughters, and that they  may not realize what changes have taken place since their student days or how to get assistance when they have questions or concerns.  That is how the idea for this book was born.

Having been part of academia for my entire adult life, I realized that parents want to help their children who are attending college, but they often do not understand how things work at most universities.  It became clear that if parents had a better understanding of how things work at colleges, then faculty, staff, administrators, and parents would all be working collaboratively to help the student.

In my experience, many times well-intentioned parents, in trying to help their son or daughter, may make a situation more difficult simply because they do not understand why processes and policies are in place and why faculty and administrators do things as they do.  This book explains how many of the processes work and the roles of different people in the institution and offers suggestions and strategies for parents for a variety of situations.”

“The advice I give in this book has been shaped by my experience and the experience of the many faculty, friends, parents, alumni, and students who have been and still are part of my life.  Life is art.  There is no one way to do things or only one possible or even good approach.  But what is laid out here is the result of much experience, thought, and collective wisdom.  If something does not sound helpful or wise for a reader’s son or daughter, the parent should follow his or her own intuition and seek additional information and assistance.  For those for whom this work helps, I am grateful.”

What others have to say about the book:

“Although the advice and examples in this unique guide may not be what prospective college parents want or expect to read, they will be all the better for having partaken of this author’s first-hand experience and insight.  Her frank, practical and illustrative approach makes this a straightforward, yet thought-provoking read.  I can’t imagine any prospective college parent not finding it beneficial.”

J. Kline Harrison, Associate Provost for International Affairs, Kemper Professor of Business, Wake Forest University

“As a parent of two young men who have attended college, I wish we had a copy of The Praeger Handbook for College Parents before we set out to find a college for our sons.  This insightful book by Helen W. Akinc far surpasses those few available in the 1990s when my sons trekked off to college. . . At the price of college these days, even at the public colleges and universities, every parent needs a copy of The Praeger Handbook for College Parents.

Earl Smith, PhD, Rubin Distinguished Professor of American Ethnic Studies, Professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University

“This book should be required reading for all parents of college-age children.  With this handbook, parents can more readily help their students navigate the often confusing college environment successfully.”

Dr. Mary T. Gerardy, Associate Vice President for Student Life, Wake Forest University

“Based on years of experience working closely with students, faculty, administrators, and her own children, Akinc’s wise and straightforward answers to the practical questions of how higher education works and how to get the most out of it are spot on.  More impressive is her attention to the philosophical and value questions that are even more important to a successful college experience but are seldom asked.”

Ryan LaHurd, PhD, former President, Lenoir-Rhyne University

Related Posts:

Parenting College Students: Recommended Reading List

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