Book Review: A High School Parent’s Guide to College Success

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  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 offered some recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. See the Recommended Reading section of our Resources page for more suggestions.

A High School Parent’s Guide to College Success by Amy Baldwin and Brian Tietje should be on every parent’s reading list at the time their student starts high school.  It takes time to get a student ready for college and this book guides parents through the process.  Don’t wait until your student is ready to head to college.

In the race to college that the high school years have become, it is easy for parents to become overwhelmed and not know where to start or how to fit in.  We like that this book presents twelve essentials for parents to focus on.  No overwhelm here.  Twelve skills for parents to help their students develop.  Twelve skills that will prepare a student to start college on the right foot and then keep him headed in the right direction.

In addition to the simplicity of focusing on twelve essential skills, Baldwin and Tietje present their material in a way that is easy for parents to access.  Each chapter (skill) is a unit on its own and parents can easily read the chapters in whatever order makes sense to them.  Parents might begin with a skill they feel their student has already mastered, or they might begin with the skill that may be the biggest stretch.

Each chapter follows a simple, helpful, and entertaining format.  Each begins with the story of a student who needs to master that particular skill.  Many parents will recognize characteristics of  their own students in these descriptions.  Woven through each chapter are actionable tips for parents and then conversation starters.  So parents have the necessary tools to tackle each skill.  We like that each chapter not only ends with suggestions for further reading, but that the authors also share why they recommend each book.  For parents who need or want to learn more, the information is available.

All of the skills discussed in High School Parent’s Guide to College Success are spot on for students headed to college, but we especially appreciate that one of the skills discussed is to “embrace failure.”  The authors acknowledge how difficult it can be for parents to step out of the way, and then they help parents understand the importance of doing so. This chapter gives parents the tools to turn their student’s failure into an all-important lesson by asking, “What’s the lesson in that?”  The authors share an illustration, “Instead of dwelling on the disappointment or berating the kid for messing up, she would turn the focus on the debrief: what happened, why did it happen, what could be done differently next time?  This redirection served the purpose of sending the message that failure is temporary, and it is a great opportunity to learn how to do things better or to make adjustments in strategy.”

A High School Parent’s Guide to College Success is worth the purchase price for this chapter alone – but you’ll want to read the rest as well.

About the authors:

Amy Baldwin wrote the first, groundbreaking student success textbook for community colleges and for first-generation students.  Because of her work with national initiatives such as Complete College America, Achieving the Dream, and the Developmental Education Initiative, Amy has become a sought-after speaker and workshop facilitator on student success.  She now serves as Director of University College at the University of Central Arkansas.  Amy and her husband live in central Arkansas with their two young adult children.

Brian Tietje is Vice Provost of International, Graduate and Extended Education at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California.  He is a thought leader in higher education and a passionate advocate for student success, particularly for those who face challenging circumstances and who may not be familiar with the unwritten rules of college and career success.  Brian is also Professor of Marketing and has been a member of the Cal Poly faculty since 1999.  Brian and his wife live on the Central Coast of California with their daughter and son.

What the authors have to say about the book:

“Our book provides parents like you with the information and tools to get your student ready for the challenges and opportunities that college will offer.  We break down the basic skills and habits that are needed for students to start strong; we provide strategies for parents to help their students develop those skills and habits; and we provide the inside track for being successful in college and after graduation.”

“We’ll share stories of students who are not quite college ready, observations from our experience as higher education professionals and advice that can help you, as a parent, equip and strengthen your student for success now and in college.  As faculty and administrators, we have purposely chosen to present a viewpoint from a college perspective to share with parents of high school students who aspire to attend college.

We recognize that the college environment can be a mysterious and daunting place, inhabited by lots of people with Ph.D.’s who may seem a bit unapproachable and intimidating.  We want to lift that veil for parents and help them recognize and develop the traits that will help their students be successful in the college environment as well as strategies for strengthening those traits before college begins.”

What others have to say about the book:

“Amy Baldwin and Brian Tietje’s book will be essential for parents and prospective college students everywhere.  It focuses clearly and practically on all the really big issues young adults need to know about if they want to succeed in college, and the authors provide valuable tips and guiding questions, real-life student scenarios that so many parents will immediately recognize, and resources, like recommended readings, that will help their students when they need it most.”

Paul Smith, educational publisher and parent

“The guide is brief and easy to read, yet packed with information. It is a handbook and reference manual that you can return to again and again; and as the authors state, you can pick up and read in any order. Whatever gaps are present in your teen now, it’s not too late to start implementing an action plan to help fill those gaps before college begins. Professors Baldwin and Tietje tell it like it is, yet at the same time, the material is presented in a congenial and sincere manner that the reader feels receptive to; it’s like having a conversation with a trusted friend. You will return to A High School Parent’s Guide to College Success again and again and feel like you can pick up something new and actionable each time.”

Shawn Handran

“This book is filled with excellent practical advice. As a father of two sons, this was a very useful tool for a crazy time in our parenting journey. The 12 traits of a successful student is accurate and can even be applied more broadly to young adults transitioning into adulthood. I liked the parent – student conversation starters and the suggestions for additional reading at the end of each chapter. In the end too many young people have not discovered their purpose or learned how to learn. Helping them grow and mature smoothly is our role as parents.”

Daniel M. Biery


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