Book by: Melinda Dalgarn
Review by: Nadine G. Huyck
TRiO Student Support Services
South Dakota State University

High School students who plan to enter college (and their parents) will find this interactive CD very useful. This survival guide explores the many transitions that occur from high school to college - including a frank discussion of the feelings involved – as it explores student experiences.

Author Melinda Dalgarn crafts chapters that offer the reader a wealth of information that is as easy-to-read as it is bright and cheerful. The reader can use the interactive format to explore a variety of college experiences from discussions of the unique relationships students will build – including a list of questions to discuss with roommates – to the importance of connecting with an academic advisor and attending class.  Study skills and resources are provided to increase time management and organization. There is even a checklist of items to bring to college.

Students are provided with important information such as “research suggests that nearly 90% of first year students arrive on campus never having shared a bedroom.”  Statistics such as this can help students understand some of the feelings that might arise during the first weeks of college.  Quotes from various authors and famous people catch students’ attention. Readers will find that the “Things to Think About” section at the end of each chapter poses questions that students can consider and discuss with their parents before entering college.

The strongest chapter (among several) is “Healthful Living.” Here students are made aware of college depression rates, meningococcal meningitis risks, and the warning signs of stress, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  Dalgarn pulls no punches in the succeeding chapter that explores the effects of drinking including, “1,400 college students die from alcohol-related causes and 1,100 of these deaths involve drinking and driving.”  A checklist is provided to distinguish a problem drinker from a social drinker and considers how non-drinkers are affected by the drinker’s behavior.

The CD addresses virtually every aspect of the first year college experience and provides an opportunity for students and their parents to discuss values prior to entering college. Thus new college students are less likely to be exposed to situations they have not previously discussed.

While academic advisors may not gain a lot of new information from this survival guide, the checklists could provide a useful place to begin some student discussions. As a Retention Advisor, I highly recommend this book to high school students, their parent, and even non-traditional students entering college for the first time.

Smart Start: A Survival Guide for First Year College Students (and Their Parents Too!).  (2005). Melinda Dalgarn. Review by Nadine Huyck. Kingston Springs, TN: College Survival Guides. Interactive CD. Price $14.95.  Order: http://www.collegesurvivalguides.com/index.php.

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