Book by Johnson Ingram, Wanda and Kiernan MacKay, Jacqueline
Review by Laura Burgess
Academic Advisor
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston

There is no denying that parents are heavily involved in the lives of their college students. With this in mind, MacKay and Ingram have provided parents with a guide to the first year of college that teaches them how to prepare for college while it discusses the transition period and higher education in general. The book combines advice and facts with personal reflections on the first year of college from students and parents; it provides specific strategies for parents in an organized and easy-to-read fashion.

The book begins with a chapter that focuses on transition issues; this is followed by a chapter on orientation that includes answers to frequently asked questions. The authors organize chapters by month and discuss issues that may arise for both students and parents. They provide strategies parents can take to deal with these issues and offer a monthly checklist as a review. Although many of the issues presented address parents of students who move away from home to attend school, there are also commuter sidebars dispersed throughout the chapters that give advice regarding issues specific to commuters.

Throughout the book, the authors emphasize that parents and students must maintain healthy communication and that students should be encouraged to take action themselves to solve their problems and issues. Parents are encouraged to discuss problems, help students set goals, and recommend resources but it is the student who must take action. “One common goal is to help students develop their own problem-solving skills rather than to solve their problems or make decisions for them” (p. 4). This is a theme all advisors and student affairs professionals will strongly embrace; I was glad to see it appear multiple times throughout the text.

Although parents of traditional college students are the target audience for this book, it can be a helpful resource for those who work with conventional first-year students. Some tips and advice given to parents regarding issues such as talking with students struggling with homesickness are applicable to advisors since we are often the first people students approach regarding both academic and non-academic difficulties. It also is a good resource for those involved in the orientation planning process. It can provide ideas and inspiration for handouts on topics that should be covered during parent orientation sessions. For example, why not create your own monthly guide to the first year of college from an advising perspective? Or preempt frequently asked questions by preparing a handout that includes questions with the appropriate answers.

Let the Journey Begin is a short and easy read that is good for anyone involved with first-year students. It can serve either as a refresher for commonly occurring issues or as an introduction for parents of first-generation freshmen.

Let the Journey Begin: A Parent’s Monthly Guide to the College Experience. (2002). Book by Johnson Ingram, Wanda and Kiernan MacKay, Jacqueline. Review by Laura Burgess. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 141 pp. ISBN # 0-618-07713-8
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