Ready, Willing, and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success, Mandy Savitz-Romer and Suzanne M. Bouffard, Cambridge, MA, Harvard Education Press, Price: $25.29, Paperback ISBN: 978-1-61250-132-1.

Review by Kevin Simmons, College of Engineering, The University of Georgia, [email protected]

Academic advisors see new students come to their institutions from a variety a different backgrounds, perspectives, and levels of development. The authors of Ready, Willing, and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success believe the levels of success students experience in college is partially a result of their levels of social, cognitive, and emotional development (Savitz-Romer & Bouffard, 2014).The authors focus on adolescent development and the strategies that adults can use to support these students in their book.

In part one of the book, the authors focus on the necessary changes needed in college access and student success, particularly as it relates to first generation students and youth at risk of low educational attainment.  The authors argue that many of the college preparation efforts are targeted towards students that already have a college goer identity. Minimum qualifications such as GPA requirements and detailed application processes may deter students who need these opportunities the most. Little attention is paid to students who aren’t meeting with their guidance counselor regularly and do not have parents with knowledge of the higher education system. Unfortunately these students may be dismissed as lazy or unmotivated, when this has much more to do with their adolescent development and their cultural identities, influences, and perspectives.

In part two of the book, the authors focus on specific ways to change the approach to college access. These five chapters are based on identity, self-efficacy, goal setting, self-regulation, as well as peer and family support. These chapters begin with context on the importance of these topics during the years of adolescent development and ends with specific strategies that can be implemented to help students succeed. Some examples are fairly simple such as the praise of hard work rather than things that come easy and the focus of mastery goals and intrinsic values rather than performance goals and extrinsic values. Some examples are more complex such as activity planning that allow students to build ties with groups they identify with and positive domain transference from one thing to another such as sports to academics.  

The authors frequently mention the importance of college preparation being done with students rather than for students. Research mentioned in the book from Psychologist Robert Epstein suggests that our culture has inadvertently extended childhood into what used to be adulthood (2007). This provides students with more freedom and fewer responsibilities. This can be seen by the drastic increase of laws that restrict youth since the 1960s. Limited opportunities to make choices and be responsible for choices can hinder adolescent development. This could explain why some students expect academic advisors to sign them up for their ideal academic schedule as opposed to being an active member of the advising process when they get to college.

Adolescent development is not substantially different from college student development. In fact, multiple development theories used in the book are often mentioned in college student development discussions such as James Marcia’s Identity Theory. Advisors more often work with college students going through what Jeffrey Arnett calls emerging adulthood (2010). The book references this occurrence where students delay entering into traditional adulthood until their mid-twenties. This is a continuation of adolescent development centered on transition, exploration, and instability. Since adolescent development and college development closely interconnected, this book is beneficial for college student professional and youth workers alike. 


Arnett, J. J. (2010). Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: A Cultural Approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Epstein, R. (2007). The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen. Sanger, CA: Quill Driver Books/Word Dancer Press.

Savitz-Romer, M., & Bouffard, S. M. (2014). Ready, Willing, and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

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