A real little gem of a book for beginning and ongoing college students is 1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know: Like Buying Your Books before Exams Start by Harry H. Harrison, Jr. According to the author, many students who are excited about going to college quickly end up back home without the diploma but with some credit card bills and college loans. I encourage anyone who has a high school senior in their household to make sure their future college student reads this book.
However, as in all things with teenagers and young adults, many think they are totally ready for the demands of college. Trust me, they are not. No matter how smart a student is and how together a student is, college offers new avenues for either making mistakes or for doing a lot of things the hard way. I find the wisdom in this book serves as a little cheat sheet to help students avoid some of the small difficulties.
Being a reading type person, the section on “You Need to Know How to Read for Content When There are No Pictures” is one of my favorites. In this section, 11 tips are given, and I will share just a few. Many instructors discuss reading in connection with learning the content in their classes, but for those who do not, and for those instructors who need acknowledgement that what they tell students about reading is valid, here are just a few ideas to pass along to students.
Students need to at least read the introduction, the summary, and headings of reading assignments. I tell students if they only have 10 minutes to read (and I don’t encourage this behavior), to spend the time reading at least the introduction and summary and skimming the headings. A small amount of time with a small amount of reading can at least get the brain to thinking about the content.
Students need to attempt to recognize information that could be turned into multiple choice questions or essay questions. Students need to recognize charts, tables, and bulleted lists have important information. In other words, not everything in the chapter has equal weight, and many well-written textbooks help students notice important information.
Here is a tough one for students. Students need to know that questions about definitions of key terms might not be explicit on tests, but students have to know the meaning of key terms in order to answer problem solving or critical thinking type questions. In other words, sometimes one has to apply information in order to be successful.
The next three seem like common sense, but in the world of college, sometimes these pieces of advice get lost because they are not flashy enough. Students need to read some of their assignments more than once. Students need to read before they come to class so they will not have that clueless look. Students need to stop now and then THINK about what they are reading.
As this new semester begins, let’s all take a few minutes to encourage our students as they read our assignments to gain the knowledge to help them be successful. I really don’t want our students to just have debt when they leave us.