Cover image for Making the most of college : students speak their minds
Making the most of college : students speak their minds
Light, Richard J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
242 pages ; 22 cm
Introduction -- Powerful connections -- Suggestions from students -- The most effective classes -- Good mentoring and advising -- Faculty who make a difference -- Diversity on campus -- Learning from differences -- What college leaders can do.
Format :


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Material Type
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LD2160 .L54 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Why do some students make the most of college, while others struggle and look back on years of missed deadlines and missed opportunities? What choices can students make, and what can teachers and university leaders do, to improve more students' experiences and help them achieve the most from their time and money? Most important, how is the increasing diversity on campus-cultural, racial, and religious-affecting education? What can students and faculty do to benefit from differences, and even learn from the inevitable moments of misunderstanding and awkwardness?

From his ten years of interviews with Harvard seniors, Richard Light distills encouraging-and surprisingly practical-answers to fundamental questions. How can you choose classes wisely? What's the best way to study? Why do some professors inspire and others leave you cold? How can you connect what you discover in class to all you're learning in the rest of life? Light suggests, for instance: studying in pairs or groups can be more productive than studying alone; the first and most important skill to learn is time management; supervised independent research projects and working internships offer the most learning and the greatest challenges; and encounters with students of different religions can be simultaneously the most taxing and most illuminating of all the experiences with a diverse student body.

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

Author Notes

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

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

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. Light addresses two major areas: the choices students make to get the most out of college and effective ways for faculty members to help students get the best experience. The book is based on research by more than 60 faculty members from 20 colleges and universities and interviews with undergraduates. Each chapter focuses on such student choices as courses and housing, and how those choices can adversely affect the quality of the college experience unless coordinated. Light offers specific suggestions from students on how to deal with typical situations. He explores factors that make classes memorable--for example, relationships with faculty members--and the importance of effective time management. Among the positive trends that Light identifies are greater ethnic and racial diversity and "mentored" internships not taken for credit. Parents and students either in college or headed there will find this book a valuable resource. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1. Introductionp. 1
2. Powerful Connectionsp. 13
3. Suggestions from Studentsp. 23
4. The Most Effective Classesp. 45
5. Good Mentoring and Advisingp. 81
6. Faculty Who Make a Differencep. 104
7. Diversity on Campusp. 129
8. Learning from Differencesp. 160
9. What College Leaders Can Dop. 190
The Assessment Projectp. 217
Referencesp. 231
Acknowledgmentsp. 237
Indexp. 239