Book Review: Emails to a Wayward College Student
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Emails to a Wayward College Student, by Neil Giblin, $3.99. Kindle. 53 pages.
Reviewed by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
As a former college professor, I am always looking for books that assist those students who get to college and struggle. These students typically are the ones attending college because it’s what is expected after high school; the ones who suddenly find themselves independent and with a lot of time on their hands and seemingly no real responsibilities.
Emails to a Wayward College Student is not for every struggling — or wayward — college student; but the advice Neil Giblin offers is heartfelt — and comes directly from a very successful adult who struggled when he attended college — taking more than five years to complete his undergraduate degree. The author shares his advice in a series of emails he sent over the course of the summer to a friend’s child who was struggling to succeed in college.
Giblin shares how he scoffed at a professor who told students at a freshman orientation that “college is your job and if you put in a full 40 hours of study a week … week in and week out … in all likelihood you will do quite well.” I should note that this type of speech is indeed standard fare at first-year student orientations.
While the emails do sometimes stray off the subject (such as a discussion on developing a list of the author’s favorite jazz songs), the author keeps the advice — and momentum — going. In fact, his emails sound a bit like a coach trying to inspire his team to greater success. Giblin also peppers his emails with a fairly large reading list, many a bit too far in left-field for a wayward student. I was expecting, perhaps, Dick Bolle’s classic, What Color is Your Parachute?, not The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
One of my favorite of Giblin’s stories is a classic tale of too many college students; his father suggested he major in business, and with no other clue otherwise, that is what he did — and he hated it and had no interest in it, which in part led to his weak class attendance, poor grades, and overall bad attitude. It wasn’t until he found a major that fit his interests that he began to excel in college.
The bulk of the book focuses on Giblin’s 12 Reminders for a Wayward College Student:
- Don’t delude yourself.
- Don’t dumb yourself down.
- Don’t dither.
- Don’t doubt yourself.
- Don’t ignore your parents or siblings.
- Do stuff that interests you.
- Do take advantage of learning opportunities.
- Do fantasize about the future.
- Do think about the impact you have on others.
- Do make strong, lasting friendships with people who make you better.
- Do (actively) work as improving yourself-control.
Don’t distort reality.
Final Thoughts on Emails to a Wayward College Student
One of Giblin’s final pieces of advice — and one I stressed to my students (and for which I still see dividends today) — is that college students should NOT be afraid to get to know their professors. He states, “Remember a professor can also be your friend, in some cases life-long friends. I still meet one of my English professors for dinner every once in a while… and he still gladly shares his wisdom and wit.” (I do my sharing on Facebook!)
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