Book By: Marmy Clason & John Beck
Review By: Jill A. Grob
Academic Advisement Center
Weber State University

On the Edge of Success captured my attention in the Forward where John Gardner, noted first year experience researcher, identified himself as a former probationary student who narrowly escaped expulsion after his first semester in college. Following Gardner’s lead, Clason and Beck preface their work with a brief explanation of the primary message of their appropriately titled book: Probationary students are struggling learners who can achieve great things if afforded encouragement and guidance.   

As is the case with many fine books available to help facilitate academic success the Clason and Beck book is worthwhile as a course text or activities handbook. The authors tutor readers to improve proficiency in approximately a dozen areas known to impact student success including: goal setting, time management, campus resources, learning styles, reading skills, note-taking skills, test-taking skills, writing skills, healthy lifestyle, and successful relationships. 

Clason and Beck emphasize that students must take responsibility for their behaviors, actively pursue success, learn they are not alone in their struggles, and utilize available resources. The formulaic presentation of material is effective and creates a reassuring rhythm within each chapter. Each lesson includes active learning opportunities that involve journal writing, critical thinking activities, campus resource connections, and Internet research. Students will easily relate to the numerous examples provided throughout and find space to take notes plentiful. In the final chapter, students reassess behaviors and habits they inventoried at the beginning of the book.

Although the text contains well-written, useful material, three features detract from the book significantly enough to impact potential sales. First, although the authors clearly understand the need to deliver their message in a clear understandable manner, some may think the use of simple language excessive. Second, because this book is similar to many first year experience texts, many advisors might conclude they can just as easily use their current text to support their probationary students. Third, despite its worthwhile content and attractive title, On the Edge of Success may struggle to compete with more contemporary-looking materials in publishers’ marketing pieces and on bookshelves.

I recommend that advisors consider using On the Edge of Success with probationary students because of its content and the clarity of presentation. This text can help advisors support learners on the edge of success; without this support many such students will unfortunately continue to perceive themselves as doomed to fail. 

On the Edge of Success. (2004). Book by Clason, Marmy A. & John A. Beck. Review by Jill A. Grob. Florence:Thomson-Wadsworth. 149 pp. Price $42.95. ISBN 0-534-56973-0.


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