Cumberland Times-News

May 26, 2012

Book can help you succeed in college

Bob Doyle, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Some readers of this column may have daughters or sons or perhaps granddaughters or grandsons that have just graduated from high school.

Some students may go to a two year community college, a state university (such as Frostburg State), a private college or university and a technical college.

What is the best book about the challenges awaiting these new college students? I’ve just read “How to Succeed In College (While Really Trying),” by Professor Jon B. Gould , 2012, University of Chicago Press ISBN - 10: 0-226-38466-3 ($14 in paperback).

The excellence of this book is its broad treatment of the many facets of college life. Dr. Gould has a wide variety of experience as a lawyer, a campaign worker, and a social science researcher.

He is now a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University where he teaches in their Law School. In two decades as a college teacher, Dr. Gould has taught classes of small, medium and large sizes and has won teaching awards.

“How To Succeed in College” is especially valuable in helping parents and students to realize what kind of effort college classes require. This book warns how a student who breezes through high school may face some great challenges in college.

Several decades ago, students in U.S. colleges spent typically 20 hours a week out of class studying while the latest studies of college students indicates an average of 12 hours a week.

This contrasts with Dr. Gould’s recommendation that college students spend twice as many hours in studying out of class as the time they spend in class.

So if a college student is taking a full load of 15 credit hours (attending about 15 hours of class a week), she/he should spend 30 hours a week in writing papers, keeping up with the recommended readings, reviewing their class notes and studying for exams.

Chapter One, an overview of college basics addresses such topics as why go to college? Why is college worth it? Difference between High school and college, what faculty do, the liberal ivory tower, teaching assistants and adjuncts (part time instructors), untenured instructors, how to identify good teachers, getting the most from class and utilizing office hours.   

Chapter Two deals with finding the best classes and choosing the right major. Topics include: It’s OK not to know (be undecided about a major), when should you choose a major? double majors and minors, prior credit, on line courses, experiential learning and study abroad.

Chapter Three is titled “In the classroom.” Topics include, surviving large classes, lecture-discussion classes, seminars, the five rules (go to class, do the readings, take notes, remain an active participant, go to office hours) and letters of recommendation.

Chapter Four is about exams. Topics include: grade inflation, you are not your grades, grade grubbing, why teachers give tests, tests and learning objectives, multiple choice items, essay exams, preparing for an exam, staying on top of the material, the night before the exam, previewing the exam, if you run out of time, and cheating.

Chapter Five deals with writing papers. Topics include: planning and making a calendar, conducting the research, sources, the four steps of research (searches for relevant articles, organizing what you have found, writing the paper (first draft, revised draft and final draft) and references), and plagiarism.

Chapter Five deals with special circumstances. Topics include: academic skills, learning disabilities, health and family emergencies, counseling, substance abuse, grade appeals, student athletes, and career services.

EVENING SKY THIS WEEK: This evening the crescent moon appears in the dim star group Cancer. Tomorrow evening the moon will appear near Regulus, the bright star marking the heart of Leo, the Lion.

On Tuesday evening, the half full moon will appear to the right of the planet Mars. This is the moon phase that shows the most detail with binoculars or a telescope. Along the moon’s straight edge, the sun is rising; its rays hit the raised rims of the craters and mountain peaks.

On Thursday evening, the moon appears near the bright star Spica in Virgo; above the moon and Spica is the ringed planet Saturn. This is your last week to see the brilliant planet Venus, now moving westward towards the sun.

Tonight Venus is setting 80 minutes after the sun, which will drop to half an hour by this Friday. On June 5, Venus will pass in front of the sun in the late afternoon.

Next week’s column will mention a variety of ways to safely see the passage of Venus across the sun’s disk.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.