Book Review: How to Survive Your Freshman Year

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 lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. Visit our Resources page for suggestions of important books for college parents and their students.

How to Survive Your Freshman Year is a book of many voices, and that is the point. The creators and editors have collected information, tips, and stories from hundreds of college students about how to make the most of your time in college. The book is full of solid advice, humor, and contradictions. Every student follows a different path through college and so the advice they share may not be the same. One student advises that you never miss a class while another student suggests that it’s not important to attend.

What this book does very well is help students understand, before they even set foot on campus, that life at college is complex and that there are different approaches. How to Survive Your Freshman Year will give an aspiring freshman a good picture of the complexity of college life and remind them that they will need to be selective in choosing whose advice to follow. The point of the book, we think, is not to provide specific advice to follow, but to force the reader (your almost freshman) to think about what dilemmas they may confront.

This book is decidedly not for parents, but is intended for you to give to your student so that they can spend the summer preparing for their new life. Although parents may not agree with some of the advice in the book, it is advice they will hear from other students anyway. If you happen to pick up the book and read a bit, it could provide wonderful topics for conversation.  Among the silly topics are several substantive and important topics as the book covers accommodations for students with disabilities, veterans, commuters, tips for LGBTQ students, social media and online safety, and rules of consent in relationships.

How to Survive Your Freshman Year is now in its sixth edition, helps to prepare students for college life, and is a book your student may actually read.

About the creators/editors:

Mark Bernstein graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and later from NYU School of Law. Since college he helped launch CNN.com, helped start the nation’s leading volunteerism not-for-profit and has still stayed friends with many friends from freshman year.

Yadin Kaufmann graduated from Princeton University, Harvard Law School and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.  Since college he’s been helping entrepreneurs start technology companies, and started two non-profit organizations.

Alison Leigh Cowan spent 27 years on staff as a reporter and editor for the New York Times before leaving for new adventures in 2015. At the paper, she published roughly 1,800 articles on everything from public corruption to corn hustling, working her way up from a lowly copygirl through the reporting and editing ranks. Along the way, she picked up a degree in philosophy from Princeton University and a master’s in business from Harvard Business School, both of which she remains grateful for and uses every day.

 What the editors have to say about the book:

“This book has your back. Hundreds of people have generously drawn from their experiences so you have the benefit of that. The chorus of voices you’ll hear in the book will not always be singing in perfect unison (any more than I was years ago.) But the multiplicity of views represented will help you make more informed choices and take on ticklish situations with fewer surprises. . .

We believed – strongly – that kids going off to college would enjoy hearing from hundreds of others who have lived through freshman year and come out with something interesting to say about it all. . . Other advice books, no matter how smart or expert their authors, are generally limited to the knowledge of a single person. But, as the old saying goes, two heads are better than one – and hundreds are better by far.”

What others have to say about earlier editions of the book:

“A guide full of fantastic advice from hundreds of young scholars who’ve been there . . . a quick and fun read.”

The Boston Herald

“The perfect send-off present for the student who is college bound . . . The book manages to be hilarious and helpful.”

The Post and Courier

“Good advice about saying goodbye to your parents, dealing with homesickness, making new friends, and getting around campus. What activities will fit you? What about a roommate? Is it really necessary to attend class? Oh, yeah, and what about studying? These questions and lots more (money, laundry, food, sex, parties, time-management, etc.) are addressed with honesty and humor.”

Ingram Library Service “Hidden Gem”

“Provides student viewpoints and expert advice on virtually every topic pertaining to first-year students from moving in to finding meals . . . After reading this book, students will be aware of the realities of college life and be better prepared to shape their own unique college experience.”

Journal of College Orientation and Transition


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