Book by Richard Robbins
Review by Harold W. Faw
Department of Psychology
Trinity Western University
Langley, B.C.  Canada

Though they may not be aware of it, college students frequently need advice that can be best provided by  faculty and student life staff. Giving Advice to Students will assist both the help-seekers and the advice-providers play their parts more effectively.

Now in its second edition, this NACADA monograph offers unique perspectives and practical resources for student services staff and instructors alike.  Its seven short chapters include almost no references, nor are their contents grounded in one theoretical framework.  Rather, the ideas emerge from years of cumulated, hands-on experience gathered by a diverse group of advice-giving practitioners.  One unique feature is that five of the chapters are followed by a series of brief essays targeted directly to students. These essays cover topics as diverse as why choosing an academic major is NOT the place to begin, how face-to-face contacts with people working in their fields of interest can pay off handsomely, and how to cope with test anxiety.  As a significant bonus, book purchasers receive NACADA permission to download these essays for distribution to students.  (Contact NACADA for more information.)

Even though the authors start with the premise that students must be proactive in shaping their educational experiences, they do not let staff and faculty off the hook. The reason is simple: many students can not find the resources they so urgently need. Thus, advice-givers play strategic roles in helping students connect with key people both on and off the campus.

Three insights have particular merit.  First, we, as advice-givers, possess a powerful tool in the unsettling questions we can pose. These might include “Are you in college for a degree or an education?” or “What are you most interested in learning while in college?”  Answering such challenging questions helps students settle into programs of study; thus choosing a major is not necessarily the first step.

Second, regardless of their field of study, students need to gain core skills that will serve them in life and in their careers. These skills include critical thinking and communication skills—abilities students should develop in the process of completing any major.

Thirdly, as they look toward postgraduate study or career pursuits, students should make contact with persons already engaged in the spheres they are about to enter. They can gain priceless insight from graduate students enrolled in their anticipated programs; likewise interviews with people working in their fields of interest can prove invaluable. Such contacts may well lead to internships or even future job opportunities. Surprisingly, the authors urge students to arrange the first of such interviews with people in their least favorite fields so they can hone essential skills and gain confidence when the stakes are still relatively low.  Brilliant advice!

Giving constructive advice is all about building relationships with students and encouraging them to take the initiative.  This book provides sensible, seasoned insights beneficial to students and advice givers alike.  

Giving Advice to Students: A Road Map for College Professionals (2nd ed.). (2004). Book by Richard Robbins. Review by Harold W. Faw. Manhattan, KS: The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). 114 pp., $ 40.00. ISBN # M11
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