Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds

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Overview

Why do some students in the United States make the most of college, while others struggle and look back on years of missed opportunities? What choices can students make, and what can teachers and university leaders do to improve more students' experiences and help them make the most of their time and monetary investment? And how is greater diversity on campus--cultural, racial, and religious--affecting education? How can students and faculty benefit from differences and learn from the inevitable moments of misunderstanding and awkwardness?

Two Harvard University Presidents invited Richard Light and his colleagues to explore these questions, resulting in ten years of interviews with 1,600 Harvard students. Making the Most of College offers concrete advice on choosing classes, talking productively with advisors, improving writing and study skills, maximizing the value of research assignments, and connecting learning inside the classroom with the rest of life.

The stories that students shared with Light and his colleagues about their experiences of inspiration, frustration, and discovery fill the book with spirit. Some of the anecdotes are funny, some are moving, and some are surprising. Many are wise--especially about the ways of getting the best, in classroom and dormitory, from the new racial and ethnic diversity.

Filled with practical advice, illuminated with stories of real students' self-doubts, failures, discoveries, and hopes, Making the Most of College presents strategies for academic success.

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Editorial Reviews

Martin Trow
Making the Most of College is an excellent book which will be of practical help to students and teachers alike. It shows close attention to the ways students learn; what they tell the interviewers, the author's own experience and that of other teachers together provide a rich account of the college experience. I will buy the book and use it, and be grateful to Richard Light for his sensitivity and creativity as a teacher and teacher of teachers.
Booklist - Vanessa Bush
Light, a Harvard professor with 30 years of experience teaching at the college level, explores those elements of college life that make it an enriching experience for students...[and] offers specific suggestions from students on how to deal with typical situations...Parents and students either in college or headed there will find this book a valuable resource.
Harvard Magazine - John S. Rosenberg
The book recounts...in 100-some excerpts from interviews with Harvard College students...revealing vignettes about how undergraduates make the most of their precious hours inside the classroom and beyond. Because the stories convey in students' words how they study, learn, and react to their peers within a residential college, it is memorably unlike anything else parents, students, soon-to-be undergraduates, and educators have read.
Christian Science Monitor - Amelia Newcomb
Based on 10 years of interviews with Harvard students, the book distills their wisdom and quotes them liberally on such matters as choosing classes, studying, diversity on campus, and the importance of writing...What they have to say would apply on most campuses. These are people who talk thoughtfully but approachably about managing their time and making connections with others. Many make it clear that they've confronted their share of self-doubt and missteps...A good read for students, teachers, and parents.
Newsweek - Alisha Davis
Harvard Professor [Richard Light] reveals secrets from his 10-year study of successful students. [Making the Most of College] offers practical advice to school administrators, parents and, most importantly, to the students themselves.
Hartford Courant - Robert A. Frahm
Light's conversational, easy-to-read book is a primer for students and families investing in college and hoping to get their money's worth. Some schools, such as the University of Washington, have distributed it to all incoming freshmen.
Chronicle of Higher Education - Alex P. Kellogg
[Making the Most of College] is receiving excellent reviews both inside and outside academe. Already, at least seven colleges have ordered copies by the hundreds and, in one case, thousands. The title was recently No. 12 in Amazon.com's educational books category...Mr. Light's recommendations sound straightforward enough: Encourage collegial work. Urge students to get involved in extracurricular activities. Foster and promote diversity. Get students to form study groups. The list goes on. Scholars and administrators who have read the book say it is the research behind such recommendations, not just the personal touch, that makes Mr. Light's work valuable.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite the author's having interviewed 400 Harvard students and visited more than 90 campuses over 10 years, his report on the findings of the Harvard Assessment Seminars would be more accurately titled "Getting the Most Out of Harvard." Rather than reflecting the experiences of average college students, his findings are more consistent with the experiences of students who arrive at prestigious universities already primed for intellectual inquiry. Yet some useful, if obvious, themes emerge from his decade spent interviewing more than 1,600 undergraduates: in-class and out-of-class experiences are significantly connected; strategies successful in high school don't always work well at college; good advising is crucial; students must ask for help when they need it; "students are enthusiastic when classes are structured to maximize personal engagement" and they enjoy interdisciplinary courses. There are some surprises, too: students Light spoke with demand high writing standards and favor unpredictability in their professors' political opinions. A major portion of the book argues that the benefits of diversity on college campuses have been underestimated and that awkward culture clashes can ultimately provide a positive, if at the time uncomfortable, learning experience. Still, the author's efforts to extrapolate from the experiences of these privileged students to the majority of college students are often unconvincing. (Mar. 5) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Light (Graduate Sch. of Education and the John F. Kennedy Sch. of Government, Harvard) interviewed 1600 Harvard students over a ten-year period to discover how to make the most of the college experience. The result is this valuable and practical book, recipient of the 2001 Virginia and Warren Stone Prize from Harvard University Press for an outstanding publication dealing with education and society. Filled with advice and illuminated by real stories of students' self-doubts, failures, discoveries, and hopes, the book is a blueprint for academic success. Some of the issues examined include collaborative selection of classes, talking productively with advisers, improving writing and study skills, maximizing the value of research assignments, and connecting learning inside the classroom with the rest of life. The students' actual responses are woven throughout, creating a revealing text unlike anything else parents, children, matriculating freshmen, and educators have read. This rich account of college life is recommended for all types of libraries. Samuel T. Huang, Univ. of Arizona Lib., Tuscon Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booklist

Light, a Harvard professor with 30 years of experience teaching at the college level, explores those elements of college life that make it an enriching experience for students...[and] offers specific suggestions from students on how to deal with typical situations...Parents and students either in college or headed there will find this book a valuable resource.
— Vanessa Bush

Harvard Magazine

The book recounts...in 100-some excerpts from interviews with Harvard College students...revealing vignettes about how undergraduates make the most of their precious hours inside the classroom and beyond. Because the stories convey in students' words how they study, learn, and react to their peers within a residential college, it is memorably unlike anything else parents, students, soon-to-be undergraduates, and educators have read.
— John S. Rosenberg

Christian Science Monitor

Based on 10 years of interviews with Harvard students, the book distills their wisdom and quotes them liberally on such matters as choosing classes, studying, diversity on campus, and the importance of writing...What they have to say would apply on most campuses. These are people who talk thoughtfully but approachably about managing their time and making connections with others. Many make it clear that they've confronted their share of self-doubt and missteps...A good read for students, teachers, and parents.
— Amelia Newcomb

Newsweek

Harvard Professor [Richard Light] reveals secrets from his 10-year study of successful students. [Making the Most of College] offers practical advice to school administrators, parents and, most importantly, to the students themselves.
— Alisha Davis

Hartford Courant

Light's conversational, easy-to-read book is a primer for students and families investing in college and hoping to get their money's worth. Some schools, such as the University of Washington, have distributed it to all incoming freshmen.
— Robert A. Frahm

Chronicle of Higher Education

[Making the Most of College] is receiving excellent reviews both inside and outside academe. Already, at least seven colleges have ordered copies by the hundreds and, in one case, thousands. The title was recently No. 12 in Amazon.com's educational books category...Mr. Light's recommendations sound straightforward enough: Encourage collegial work. Urge students to get involved in extracurricular activities. Foster and promote diversity. Get students to form study groups. The list goes on. Scholars and administrators who have read the book say it is the research behind such recommendations, not just the personal touch, that makes Mr. Light's work valuable.
— Alex P. Kellogg

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674004788
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 992,370
  • Product dimensions: 5.41 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Light is Professor in the Graduate School of Education and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 Powerful Connections 13
3 Suggestions from Students 23
4 The Most Effective Classes 45
5 Good Mentoring and Advising 81
6 Faculty Who Make a Difference 104
7 Diversity on Campus 129
8 Learning from Differences 160
9 What College Leaders Can Do 190
The Assessment Project 217
References 231
Acknowledgments 237
Index 239
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2001

    Great Advice for College Bound Students

    Unlike many of the more traditional guides, this book examines the academic, political, and social issues that are affecting the education of students within the selected colleges and universities. There are a number of essays that evaluate the learning, process and student life. There is also information on tuition, enrollment, and other important factors that may influence your chances of gaining entry to a particular school. Being acquainted with the admissions process, as a former student, and now, as an instructor of English literature I would suggest you take a look at my recommendations for improving your future studies.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2001

    A Impressive Book About College that is Actually Useful. Amazing and Unusual.

    I did not know whether I would enjoy this new book, yet found it almost an emotional experience to read it. I mean that in the best sense. This book describes and gives results from Light's work with 25 universities over more than ten years, and it shows. It has three pieces to it that make it different from other books on college. 1. It is written for both students and professors at colleges, which is unusual and yet the author somehow carries it off beautifully. There are lots of concrete recommendations for both groups. 2. It has lots of surprises, especially in the racial diversity chapters even though they are only a small fraction of this book. The biggest surprise is that the author finds a great balance between anecdotes that illustrate positive outcomes, yet he certainly includes some obviously negative examples. For me, the take-away point is that 'it all depends on choices that students make, and that the professors and Deans must make.' This is great stuff. Plus, the anecdotes that Light includes offer many surprises. There is one from a Korean American woman that illustrates in a compelling way how racial diversity on campus often does not involve students learning ideas from one another - - rather it gets individuals on a campus to re-think their own values. This is not a Democrats or Republicans book - it is a sensible book. 3. The many dozens of students' anecdotes are riveting. Maybe Harvard students are particularly articulate, yet since the author reports he worked with two dozen different colleges when organizing this book, and has visited 90 others to gather information, I assume his results really do apply pretty widely to many places. I bet many of his suggestions for improving education apply to my own kids' high school, and I have shared the book with the Principal. In summary, I wish professors and students and even high school teachers would read this. It is awfully good, and surprisingly easy to understand. Probably because it is always so specific. The author obviously made a great effort to write for a wide audience. And it is clearly based on good research design, so that I can believe the author's findings. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2001

    Light's ladder to Success in Pursuit of Education

    Practical, easily understood functional educational politics, includes admissions criteria, what kids are looking for and what is truly available to them in undergraduate school. A text to be placed along side any college catalog to help validate or repudiate the meaning and direction of school philosophy, academics, student participation and organization, and everything the 'inexperienced parent' needs to help their child make worthy choices for college application.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2011

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