Decoding College: Stories, Strategies, and Struggles of First-Generation College Students. (2017). Book by Kallie Clark. Review by Rafael R. Almanzar. Rowe Publishing, 189 pp., $14.95, (Paperback), ISBN 978-1939054760

Review by Rafael R. Almanzar, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Texas A&M University

First-generation college students face challenges that are unparalleled to their second-generation counterparts. In Decoding College: Stories, Strategies and Struggles of First-Generation College Students, Clark (2017) provides a blueprint for students who are the first in their families to navigate the college application process. Additionally, throughout the text, Clark offers a glimpse into those challenges, successes, and experiences of first-generation college students who shared their stories.

The text can be divided into three sections. The first section deals with the pre-college application process. Clark, who was a first-generation college student, provides the reader with personal and professional experiences with first generation college students on steps to take before the college application process. The second portion of the text illustrates how to stay persistent, motivated, and graduate from college. Clark provides the readers with personal stories from students who faced unforeseen challenges in their college experiences. As advisors read these personal stories, Clark challenges you to think about the choices these students made. This portion of the text is useful for advisors. The final section of the text, Clark provides step by step guidance and tools aimed to help navigate the college application process. Advisors can benefit from the context of the pre-college process to alter their approach towards advising and to better serve first generation college students.

Clark provides the reader with personal stories from students interviewed about their struggles in college. Additionally, to help advisors, Clark provides questions at the end of each story to challenge advisors to combat the challenges these students faced. Advisors can appreciate the prompts as it will challenge their practice to better advise first generation college students. Furthermore, the text provides academic advisors first-hand experience of the struggles of first-generation college students. This includes financial, academic, and personal struggles that often times advisors may not consider due to the high volume of students they advise. The insightful stories will encourage advisors to adapt their approach to advise and serve not only first-generation college students, but all students. Additionally, the text provides guidance to those who will be first in their family to go to college. It will help academic advisors and parents of first-generation college students, understand the challenges they may experience.

In Decoding College: Stories, Strategies and Struggles of First-Generation College Students is more of a guide for students and families. Despite this limitation, academic advisors can benefit from the text to enhance their knowledge of first-generation college students and the struggles they face. According to Petty (2014), the number of first-generation college students has increased over the last 10 academic school years; however, the dropout rate for these students is steadily increasing. Advisors can utilize Clark’s book to combat those challenges by changing their approach and philosophy on advising first-generation college students.





















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