Thursday, August 22, 2013

College Firsts: The 5 books every student should read before college

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Whenever I'm about to try something new and am scared to death about it, I buy books. 

Confession: I have a lot of books (and have probably borrowed $20,000 worth of books from the library).

Those books have changed my life completely. 

Reading books is one of the best ways to prepare for something new and learn the strategies that take others years to learn on their own (if at all), and allows you to avoid the mistakes most college students make. 

So with that in mind, below are the top 5 books that I think every student should read before (or in) college. If you apply the strategies in these books they'll help you become a college superstar, win scholarships, and have a truly life changing experience.

Disclosure: The books I recommend below are truly books I personally purchased, love, have read, and have seen directly help students. Neither the authors nor publishers have asked me to write this.

1. How to Win at College by Cal Newport - This book shares the strategies real overachievers use to excel in college without the stress (such as "take three days to write a paper). College is really hard, but it doesn't have to be so stressful. This book shows how it's done. 
2. How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport
While Cal's first book shares the big overall strategies for college success, this one shares the nitty gritty details of how to study. 

Though I didn't discover Cal's books until I was a college advisor, I recognized all of the strategies I personally used to succeed in college in both of these books and loved recommending them to my students.   
3. Community College Success by Yours Truly - Okay am I totally lame for recommending my own book? I can't help it because honestly, if I didn't think it was a book that would help college students then I wouldn't have bothered waking up at 5am every day for a year to write it. 

Community College Success teaches you exactly how to build the relationships necessary for college success by giving you step-by-step instructions on how to make friends in class, how to approach professors, how to join clubs, how to build experience that wins scholarships, how to choose a major, how to get internships, and how to find a mentor. 

It also shares tips on how to manage the unique transferring experience from community college to a university, along with many of my personal stories.
4. Say This NOT That to Your Professor by Ellen Bremen
Ellen was my writing accountability partner when I wrote my book and our books were picked up by the same publisher. She is a community college professor and an expert communicator who shares tips "from the other side" on exactly how to approach your professors to ensure your success. 

This book is so unique and would be a great one to keep in your backpack and pull out as needed before you approach a professor.
5. Do What You Are by Paul Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger - This book takes you through the popular Myers-Briggs personality test and walks you through your personality-based strengths, weaknesses, and how a variety of career categories might fit you best.

Taking the Myers-Briggs and reading this book in college opened my eyes to who I was, what I loved, and how I could use my best strengths and find a major that would motivate me to work really hard. 

Personality tests are not prescriptive; it's best to use the information as a starting point to give you confidence in who you are, what you're capable of, and how you can best share your talents with the world after you graduate. 


Getting books to help you succeed in college is one of the best investments you can make. Don't wait until you fail a test, miscommunicate with a professor, feel lonely, or feel so stressed that you're thinking of dropping out. 

Be proactive and you'll be amazed at how quickly you'll stand out at your college by using the strategies in these books. 

Happy reading! :)

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