Book by Ryan R. Otter
Review by Timothy J. Jones
Senior Academic Counselor
University College
University of Oklahoma

In this book, Dr. Ryan Otter’s goal is “to provide a good, universal real-world approach to college that can help all students, regardless of career path” (p. 152).  The author definitely has some “real world” truths about college and about professors that will make student readers think, such as, “How can you expect to know who you are if you’ve never spent time with yourself?  It takes time, good questions, and honest answers to understand who you are and from this comes self-confidence” (p. 71). Advisors will find some helpful material in the book to use with students making the transition from high school to college, especially, “the proper mindset to have is called the mature mindset and in the game of college, to be successful, you need to be the coach and the player” (p. 55). Otter emphasizes adopting the mature mindset as one of the most important aspects for students’ success in college.

Otter’s book includes some “tell it like it is” things that are not typically found in standard student success textbooks.  First, he encourages students to gather information early in college so they can establish a career goal because “success at college should not be defined by any single event, such as graduation, but rather by how well prepared you are for your chosen career” (p. 1).  Otter also remarks, “If you think that college courses alone are going to give you the preparation and experience you need to succeed in your chosen profession, you are just plain wrong” (p. 35). Clear information is given in the book about choosing a career goal, including the importance of contacting professionals working in that area and of gaining real world experience. In addition, Otter comments on some changes in vocabulary that young adults should make as they enter college: “don’t view yourself as a student; instead, view yourself as an early professional” (p. 68), and “my advice is that you only use the word earn when talking about…grades” (p. 105).

In keeping with the mature mindset idea, Otter also mentions that “Your success in college and in your career is dependent upon your understanding of how to act in a professional relationship” (p. 121).  He observes that many college students still see themselves as kids who “believe that no matter what they do wrong, they can fix the problem by saying sorry and asking for a second chance,” which is not true in a professional relationship (p. 121).

One of the best elements in the book about the change from high school to college is the Game Time Study Technique. Otter reminds readers that when trying to adopt some new habits “your mind, just like any other muscle in your body, needs to get comfortable with the changes that are happening and it takes about two weeks before you’re going to feel comfortable” (p. 94).  The Game Time Study Technique “focuses on preparing for the game exactly as it’s going to be played” by “writing and answering questions that are as close to the exam questions as possible” (p. 98).  Just as a basketball player won’t become a better basketball player by playing only tennis, college students won’t become better students unless they make changes in their study methods.

Students who read this book will get some home truths that don’t appear in college success texts.  Advisors who read this book will find useful tidbits to share with students—and advisors might also find themselves thinking about their own career goals. Additional information (including some videos and PowerPoints) may be found at thecollegegameproject.org This is a thoughtfully-written book with many good ideas in it; however, before the second edition comes out, this book should also be carefully edited to fix some grammatical errors so the message Otter presents will be communicated in the most effective way.

How to Win at the Game of College: Practical Advice from a College Professor. (2010). Book by Ryan R. Otter, Ph. D. Review by Timothy J. Jones. Murfreesboro, TN: Milroy Press. 154 pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-9829352-0-0

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