Book by Tim Clydesdale
Review by Katie Beres
Major Exploration Advising Office
Saint Louis University

Tim Clydesdale’s The first year out: Understanding American teens after high school, covers Clydesdale’s research with high school seniors between 1995 and 2003 and their first year after high school. The stories and themes Clydesdale shares revolve around the transition for students (both college bound and not) in their journeys to make sense of the world one year out of high school. Teenagers’ primary focus in the first year out is “daily life management” (mainly referring to social and financial management), which is heavily influenced by American pop culture’s expectations of a consumerist teen lifestyle. Education is not a priority, even for those in college.

The First Year Out belongs in a Student Development theory library as an addition to what is known about the Millennial generation and how they (or we) develop. Understanding that students, according to Clydesdale, are preoccupied with the task of managing their daily lives in their first year out has significant implications for advisors.

The idea that students are in a state of transition during their first year out is not new. Helping students transition fuels our first year student programming and our discussions with students about study skills and time management. What struck me is Clydesdale’s description of American teen culture: they work to consume. With more students working while in high school and continuing to do so while they are in college, financial education and planning becomes just as important as “time management”. The consumptive aspect of incoming students increases the need for collaboration and partnership between advisors and Financial Services.

As advisors, we challenge students to make meaning of academics and their external experiences. The questions advisors ask of students can help them critically evaluate their identities in meaningful ways. Clydesdale proposes challenges to developmental advising by theorizing that students preoccupied with daily life management actually put their most vulnerable identities in “lockboxes” in order to pursue happiness through consumption. Clydesdale recommends that once we’ve helped students identify their interests we should: “engag[e] those interests to develop cognitive and communicative skills, connect those interests to existing bodies of knowledge, and apply knowledge in practical and creative ways” (p.203). Luckily, advisors have developmental advising techniques to guide us; however, continuous professional development should stress these practical skills. 

Clydesdale provides directives for all educators (faculty, residence life, student activities, career services) who work with first year students; he emphasizes the importance of an overall campus community’s ability to engage students as advisors do. 

His is an interesting voice in the dialogue on how incoming students are changing. As with any general descriptions of a group, exceptions exist. Clydesdale does offer challenges to our traditional developmental theories and may give us cause to rethink what was learned in grad school. I would recommend The First Year Out to help understand incoming freshmen and as a discussion piece with new advisors and graduate students to begin a dialogue regarding their own high school experiences.

The First Year Out: Understanding American teens after high school (2007). Book by Tim Clydesdale. Review by Katie Beres. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 265 pp. Price $20. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-11066-0 or ISBN-10: 0-226-11066-4
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