Book by Frankie Santos Laanan (Ed.)
Review by Ruth C. Slotnick,
Pre-Education Undergraduate Advisor
University of South Florida, Tampa

Understanding Students in Transition: Trends and Issues presents perspectives from eight authors on the issues faced by students transitioning to, from, and between higher education institutions e.g., high school to college, two-year to four-year institutions, the adult learner’s return to higher education, issues faced by international scholars, and students facing forced transitions.  Student affairs professionals can glean much from this volume, particularly academic advisors who play a crucial role in easing the transitional process.

The first major transition discussed is the transition from high school to college with several chapters dedicated to this theme. One chapter presents the philosophic underpinnings of the Freshman Year Experience (FYE) movement as a way to broaden institutional change.  Pivotal to this change is the formation of a campus-wide committee made-up of faculty, staff, and administrators who work together to improve students’ first-year year experiences. Another chapter presents the influence of pop culture on college freshmen.  Specifically, it stresses the importance of debunking stereotypes and increasing a freshman student’s awareness of available campus academic services that can help them succeed.  A third chapter uses regression analysis to analyze key factors that influence the academic development of freshmen.  A critical finding in this chapter highlights the pivotal role academic advisors play in this process.  Other transitional themes related to freshmen include the need for more P-16 initiatives and an expansion of transitional services sensitive to serving minority students from a number of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

The second major transition focuses on transfer, international, and returning adult students.  Transfer students continue to face some of the most difficult transitional issues as the lack of statewide articulation agreements, course misalignments, and misinformed academic advising between two-year and four-year institutions continue hinder the transfer process.  International students too face complex issues; this is true not only for those who study in the United States but for U.S. students who study abroad.  While some institutions are making global education a priority, others fail to increase the advising services related to these programs.  For adult learners, several scenarios illustrate successful alternative models used to ease the process of adults transitioning back into higher education with little or no academic penalty.  

A final chapter addresses forced transition.  This chapter is particularly timely as it includes the transition necessitated by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.  An experienced staff of academic advisors is integral to dealing with the mass pandemonium that may accompany the arrival of large number of displaced students.  In an ideal scenario, advisors would be able to expand typical services to address the unique needs of misplaced and transplanted students who must revise their academic careers.

While academic advisors well versed in transfer literature may find this journal light on quantitative studies, this publication presents new strategies to deal with old conundrums.

Understanding Students in Transition: Trends and Issues. New Directions for Student Services, no. 114. (2006) Book by Frankie Santos Laanan (Ed.). Review by Ruth C. Slotnick. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 112 pp., $27.00 (paperback), ISBN # 0-7879-8679-8
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