Succeeding in College and Life by Jonathan Wong is jam-packed with everything a prospective college student will need to know to succeed. As a former English professor who taught freshman composition, I wish this book had been in print when I taught because I would have made it recommended reading for all of my students.
For me, what makes Succeeding in College and Life stand out is that it gives a bird’s-eye view of the college experience. Yes, there is plenty of advice in it about studying to get good grades, but the college experience is far more than that. It is about discovering oneself. It is about building relationships with friends that could last forever. It is about being away from home and living on one’s own. It is about the educating of the mind and the awakening of the personality in new, surprising, and magical ways. Jonathan Wong, who has been a longtime college instructor himself, understands all that, and he’s got it all covered between the covers of this book. While I can’t mention every topic Jonathan discusses in these pages, I’ll hit on a few highlights.
One of the biggest issues with college is the idea that one needs to be perfect. Writer’s block can also become study block and performance block. Jonathan reminds students that they don’t have to be perfect; they just have to do their best. He also reminds them that not earning an A and even failing is okay so long as you’re learning, which is the real purpose of education, not just grades. This practical advice helps to give a reality check to the real importance of a college education.
Jonathan then walks the reader through all aspects of the college experience, from choosing a major, to picking classes and how to develop study and time-management skills. He also provides lots of advice on how to network, find internships, get good recommendations from your professors, and other activities you can do to make you stand out from the crowd while in college so you’ll impress potential employers.
I also greatly appreciated all of the financial advice in the book. Jonathan explores all the ways to fund a college education, from scholarships and financial aid to how to balance work with studying. He also gives wonderful tips to students on how to handle their money during their college years.
College is also a time to have fun. There is advice in these pages on networking with other students and participating in various activities on or off campus to build lifelong friendships. Perhaps most importantly, Jonathan reminds readers that their classmates, especially within their specific fields of study, will be their colleagues in the workplace, not only competing with them for jobs but also possibly becoming their employees or bosses in the future, so the stronger the relationships you build in college, the better your chances of career success and personal happiness.
Throughout the book, Jonathan stops readers to ask them to reflect. Each chapter concludes with one or more exercises so students will think about everything from where to get counseling if needed to knowing how to use the library and other resources on campus. These exercises, when completed, will make the book a directory of resources for students.
Finally-well, there’s a lot more, but I’ll just mention one last thing-I went to college in the early ’90s like Jonathan did. In those days, we were just starting to be required to use computers to type our papers. Today, there are countless technological resources available to students that we didn’t have then. Jonathan gives advice on all of these different resources, including word processing programs, various types of software, computers, websites, etc. Many of them are based around people’s different personal learning styles and can provide incredible benefits. I was thoroughly impressed by all the technology I didn’t even know existed that could be helpful to students.
I wish someone had given me this book when I graduated from high school. While a lot of the information may seem like common sense to people already enmeshed in their careers, it isn’t always obvious to an eighteen-year-old freshman. Had I devoured this book over the summer before my freshman year, I would have been far better prepared for college. I wish someone like Jonathan had told me to make more of an effort to network and be sociable during my college years, so I could leverage how people could help me not only in the classroom but in my future career. In short, this book can even help introverts.
Anyone who knows a prospective high school graduate should give a copy of this book to him or her. It will be a college student’s best friend during the academic years, and it will set students up for success in their careers and even their lives.