Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: College Fast Track

College Fast Track: Essential Habits for Less Stress and More Success in CollegeI don't often write product reviews, but with my oldest daughter entering the middle school years, making sure my children are prepared for college has been weighing on my mind. While I have been aware of what needs to be covered, I'm not worried so much about the courses and subjects the girls choose to study in the years leading up to college, as much as I want to be sure they are prepared to succeed once they are actually enrolled in college.  I attended a college prep high school, took the honors classes, and felt I was well-prepared for life at a university. School always came easy to me, and although I worked hard on research papers and essays, always trying my best, I rarely felt overwhelmed by the workload and relied on the deadlines and check-ins provided to me by my teachers.  But college is a different story, as there is often very little instruction on how and when to actually get the work done, and the chunk of your grade often rests on two scores - midterm and final.  In that first quarter, I felt overwhelmed, nervous, and confused as to how to proceed.

I was lucky - my type-A personality got me organized quick, and a book I read in middle school (all about study skills and the all-mighty outlining process) ensured that I studied the right way and as such did well enough to go on to a great law school. But I often wonder how it will be for my daughters. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that there isn't the same pressure to complete assignments, there aren't grades, and there aren't even graduation requirements. In my state, once my children reach age 16 (when compulsory schooling ends) there is no legal requirement to do anything. So it's up to me to ensure that my children are prepared to do well in college.

I received a copy of Derrick Hibbard's College Fast Track: Essential Habits for Less Stress and More Success in College and was intrigued. I haven't read a school success book since the one back in middle school. And after reading it, I believe this book would be extremely beneficial for students getting ready to enter the college years. In fact, I believe most of the advice in the book can be successfully applied to any stage of life! Hibbard focuses on larger concepts and fundamental principles which are essential for success in any endeavor. And the book serves as a good reminder to those of us out of college about what it takes to realize our goals. In terms of specifically doing well in college, College Fast Track offers a good overview of important habits that will help students succeed in their college career.

College Fast Track is broken down into 16 habits, and while Hibbard does provide some practical advice on how to implement each habit, it is not written as a how-to manual but rather as a guide. I feel that this distinction is the real strength of the book. It allows the reader to see the big picture and to absorb which habits to form rather than how to form them. For example, one of the habits is getting organized. Hibbard provides examples and ideas, but he does not exhaust the reader with hundreds of pages on how to get organized. This provides an opportunity to focus on the topic (habits for college success), come up with a game plan, and still have the ability to move on if one already possesses that habit. If one needs further instruction, there are thousands of "how-to" books on each topic. Implementing the habits will not necessarily be easy, but College Fast Track provides you with an outline of what to work on. 

Additionally, Hibbard has, as it states in the title, provided the essential habits. There are many other helpful habits one could use to be successful in school, but this book is about those that are essential to success - the ones that should be focused on and mastered first.  As such, the book is kept to a length that guarantees a new college student can actually read it and begin to use the information, rather than get bogged down in 500 pages of tips and tricks, lose interest, and leave it to collect dust on the shelf. I believe this book is worth reading for anyone focusing on completely a goal be it college, grad school, a business project, a homeschooling plan, etc. And it would make a great high school graduation gift for any student!

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