Selingo, J.J. (2013). College (un)bound: The future of higher education and what it means for students. Las Vegas, NV: Amazon Publishing.

Review by Dr. Lauren Prepose-Forsen, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, [email protected]


College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students, by Jeffrey Selingo challenges its readers to question the viability of the traditional American Unversity and whether or not it can continue to thrive in the ever-changing times of economic instability, technological revolution, and a diverse student body with very different expectations when it comes to education.  College (Un)Bound is organized into three parts: “How We Got Here”, “The Disruption”, and “The Future”.

“How We Got Here” describes how colleges and universities changed from 1999 – 2009, specifically magnifying how the law of more—"more buildings, more majors, more students, and of course more tuition"—guided institutions during this decade which resulted in higher tuition costs but a less rigorous academic experience for students (Selingo, 2013, p. xxv).  “The Disruption” describes “how the traditional college is becoming unbound” and is being disrupted by an unsustainable financial model, adaptive learning software, hybrid classes, alternative pathways to degrees, and the unbundling of traditional degree credits (Selingo, 2012, p. xxvi). Finally, the “The Future” touches upon the radically different college experience students will experience in the next decade but more importantly provides a practical overview of how students and parents can better navigate the higher education system thus selecting the post-secondary institution and major that best fits their unique situation.

Is a college degree worth it?  This seems to be the leading question throughout the book and the author purports that attaining a degree is still very important but in many situations, the major that degree is in, is less critical.  What is more vital to the degree than the major itself is the skills and knowledge learned in the pursuit of the degree.  Therefore, Selingo recommends that college students seek passionate faculty mentors, participate in research, take advantage of study abroad opportunities, be creative, take risks, and learn how to fail.  These experiences will help students develop the skills (e.g., critical thinking, willings to adapt) necessary to succeed in the workforce of tomorrow.  One of NACADA’s core values of academic advising is empowerment, which states that academic advisors motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality (NACADA core values of academic advising, 2017).  Therefore, academic advisors are in key positions to empower students to participate in opportunities outside of the classroom (i.e., student research, study abroad, student organizations) and to be active participants in their intellectual pursuits. 

Additionally, Selingo encourages students and parents to think about college education as an investment and to select a college by calculating the return on investment.  To do this students and parents should ask the following questions:

  • “What is the school's graduation rate for students with family and academic backgrounds similar to yours?
  • How many first-year students with backgrounds like yours return for their second semester and then for their second year?
  • What is the job-placement rate of the college’s graduates? How is it calculated?
  • Where are last year’s graduates working?  How about five years ago? Ten years ago?” (Selingo, 2013, p. 209)  

The questions Selingo suggests target success measures such as graduation rates, retention rates, and employment rates—all of which are within the realm of academic advising.  Retention and graduation rates of students are heavily influenced by the quality of their interactions with peers as well as faculty and staff.  Academic advisors have the opportunity to build meaningful and caring relationships with their advisees and therefore are vital to keeping students engaged in their learning and motivating them to complete their degree.  In order to do this, academic advisors need to be competent in providing accurate institutional information in a variety of different areas (e.g., campus and community resources, degree programs, institution specific policies) in order to effectively guide students through the college experience (NACADA academic advising core competencies model, 2017).  More so then ever, academic advisors are vital to promoting excellence in all dimensions of student success and can be very influential in a student's academic journey.    

Overall the book is a helpful exploration of changing world of higher education and provides great insight for anyone concerned with the future of higher education.  Students and parents will gain a better understanding of the various pathways to a degree as well as specific institutional factors to research when selecting a college and a major.  However, for academic advisors, this book will most likely be an interesting read with minimal practical takeaways for advisors to use in their everyday practice.   



Selingo, J.J. (2013). College (un)bound: The future of higher education and what it means for students. Las Vegas, NV: Amazon Publishing.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx



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