Book by Robert H. Miller
Review by Christine Frezek
Career Services
Lewis University

Robert Miller writes in a no-nonsense, nothing-held-back tone that lets readers know that this is truly what needs to be done to be successful in college.  He enlists the help of several mentors -- most are recent college graduates -- who offer their perspectives on each topic.  The book is written for, and directed to, students; it provides very useful information related to a variety of subjects including academics.

The book is divided into five parts that cover getting into college to the senior year.  Part one is a step-by-step process for choosing schools, how to apply, and how to navigate financial aid.  Part two addresses considerations for the freshman year from what the freshman should take to campus to an explanation of the core curriculum.  Parts three, four and five cover generally the same things -- goal-setting, avoiding slumps, and planning meaningful summers – for the sophomore, junior and senior years.

The author advocates two approaches that, when taken together, will maximize the value of the college experience.  First, students should approach college as a blank slate with no defined direction; they should let the tide carry them on an exploratory journey.  During this journey, students should frequently take stock of where they are, check their location against their values and dreams, and adjust accordingly (p.xiv).  A good example is the goal-setting chapters; there is one for each year of college.  These chapters help students focus on the goals they want to achieve in academics, career, social, extracurricular, physical, financial, and spiritual areas. Workshops can help students find compelling reasons to work towards their goals, and ultimately, provide helpful guides for students in figuring out what they want to accomplish.

The chapter on choosing a major is interesting.  It is very different than most resources that recommend students find their interests, values and skills.  Instead, Miller lists four criteria: “(1) pick a subject you’re passionate to learn about; (2) pick a subject that allows you to do the things that you enjoy doing academically; (3) pick a subject that relates at least somewhat to your likely career track; and (4) pick a subject that has some potential real-world applicability for you now or later in life” (p. 337).  Miller emphasizes that students should reflect on why they are choosing a particular major as they engage in exploratory behavior.  Students shouldn’t pick a major only because their parents or others think it is good (p. 342).

About one-third of the book is devoted to academics.  For that reason, I would not recommend this book to advisors.  This is a complete guide to the college experience and covers topics in depth that are not relevant to the advisor role.  This is, however, a good reference for students and I would highly recommend it to students.

Campus Confidential: The Complete Guide to the College Experience by Students for Students. (2006). Book by Robert H. Miller. Review by Christine Frezek. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 528pp., $16.95. ISBN # 0-7879-7855-8
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