Fry, R.W. (2016). How to stufy. Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press.
Review by Tim Brown, Georgia Institute of Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Advisors and academic professionals can have a direct or indirect effect on how a student performs in the classroom. Some advisors are tasked with more intrusive methods of advising which requires them to be more involved with a student’s daily tasks. Other advisors may not be evaluated based upon student performance but they still have a vested interest in student success. In any regard, Ron Fry’s How to Study: 25th Anniversary Edition (2016, hereafter HTS25) is a welcome tool for any advisor’s toolbox.
HTS25 starts with several self-assessments that a student can take in order to gauge their areas of opportunity for improvement. Upon completion, the book provides a scoring guide that serves as a prognosis to guide students for what they need to improve upon and the chapters in the book that can help. While Fry cannot guarantee that a student who is performing poorly in class will completely turn things around, he does indicate that he “…can promise you that whatever your current grades and effort, you will undoubtedly experience a positive change if you put in the time to practice the skills in this book” (Fry, 2016, p.35). Starting with the assessments is great for advisors for a few reasons. Advisors can opt to do these assessments with students in their meetings, as they are short and several could be given in one setting. Students could also opt to do these alone if they do not have the comfort level and rapport with their academic professionals to coordinate. Whether it is utilized by freshmen during freshman orientation or students who are returning to school after the myriad amounts of reasons for absence, these assessments can serve as a foundation to operationalize a comprehensive plan for the entirety of a semester at the beginning of the semester.
There are more assessments in later chapters, and these assessments highlight a strength contained in the pages of this book. They require the student to be reflective on their current state of circumstances. Sometimes students may be unaware that they are self-sabotaging, or are resistant to someone who’s employed by the university telling them that they have to change their approach. The assessments found here helps to trigger an internal monologue within students that can help them be more receptive to corrective change and also can be a tool to make difficult conversations easier from an advising perspective. Accessibility is arguably the biggest strength of this book. Fry indicates that it was written for high school students but a diverse audience have found its utility. He indicates that adult degree completers and even current students benefit from the book’s content. However, because it was written with a younger audience in mind, it is not dense and makes for a quick read. Furthermore, it is not a book that has to be read in one sitting, but can parsed into sections as needed or as a collective, be revisited time and time again. For students who are already trying to juggle information from courses they are being graded upon, having a resource like this would not only be a reprieve but would also cause them to be more apt to utilize it.
HTS25 does a great job of explaining abstract structures in ways that a student can take that knowledge and quickly identify what applies to that situation. Every chapter provides systemic approaches necessary for student success. The advice Fry offers is not preachy; it comes across as well-intentioned and very easy to adopt, requiring small changes to pre-existing habits versus one having to completely overhaul what they are doing which can be sometimes daunting. Furthermore, Fry does a good job of planting passing seeds of wisdom while also providing more directed advice. As an example, he suggests that visual learners will “…want to adapt [their] note-taking methods to [their] visual preference. Rather than writing notes like everybody else, draw pictures, use charts, or learn how to ‘map’ a lecture” (Fry, 2016, p.51).
Chapters 1 and 2 lay a foundation for how a student should prepare and approach studying. The rest of the book deals with specific skills necessary to be successful in classes. For example, chapter 3 provides advice on how to read and do so effectively. For academic coaches, chapter 5 is fruitful as it discusses time management strategies. There are dedicated chapters to class attendance, writing papers and taking tests as well. Virtually all of the skills necessary for success as a student are addressed here in some way. Having this book on hand reflects a commitment to the core competencies and values for NACADA members. The core competencies framework consists of 3 pillars identified as conceptual, informational and relational (NACADA, 2017b). Advisor professionalism, empowerment of, caring for, and commitment to students are core values (NACADA, 2017b) that HTS25 operationalizes within these 3 pillars. Our professional pledge to students requires preparedness for the challenges that they will encounter in their daily lives and this is a tool that a student can easily utilize and adopt. Therefore, either providing or employing HTS25 is a proactive, full-circle approach to advising.
HTS25 has a broad utility within advising. If your office employs appreciative, prescriptive, or ‘advising as teaching’ as a model, then this book has something that you can use for your students. This book can be used with a multitude of populations: freshmen, students who are or have historically struggled with academics in the past, or professionals who work with students are some that come to mind. As mentioned before, the book even addresses students who are returning to school and dedicates space to their salient issues like how to study when small children are around. With that said, HTS25 can be a book shared centrally in an office or distributed widely to a cohort for a department looking to find ways to encourage performance, retention, and completion for their students.
Anon. (2019). Fry, Ronald W(illiam) 1949. Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Retrieved from https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/fry-ronald-william-1949
Fry, R. W. (2016). How to study. Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press.
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
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