College Fast Track: Essential Habits for Less Stress and More Success in College (Paperback)
Essential Habits for Less Stress and More Success in College
Fine Print Press, 9781888960235, 132pp.
Publication Date: July 15, 2011
In "College Fast Track: Essential Habits for Less Stress and More Success," author Derrick Hibbard has done something rather unique. Already having demonstrated his ability to distill great study habits into a potent liquor in his prior book, "Law School Fast Track," he turns his attention now to helping undergraduate students achieve similar success. But rather than approach his undergraduate advice from a dumbed-down standpoint (i.e. that it's "only" college and hardly as difficult as law school or other graduate programs, or that college kids need only the most generic, basic advice, leaving the more advanced advice until later in their academic careers, or that it's okay to learn by failure in college), he does what no other college guide before has done: he takes tried-and-true techniques for success in one of the most demanding graduate programs - law school - and applies these same, or very similar, techniques to undergraduate study.
If this makes no sense, consider the current popularity of "extreme" fitness programs, which take exercises, techniques, and workouts utilized by professional fighters, soldiers and sportspeople and, with a few tweaks here and there, apply the same principles to beginners with great success. The attitude is that if it's good enough for the best of the best, then it's also good for the beginner (modified, as appropriate, to avoid injury). Of course, a beginner in fitness could stick to the standard low-intensity beginner-level stuff, such as walking around the neighborhood, water bottle in one hand and cell phone in the other, or taking the stairs at the office instead of the elevator, but that doesn't produce good, lasting results. It doesn't instill the right mindset in the individual. It's not focused. Similarly, the beginner (i.e. freshman) in higher education could stick to basic techniques like religiously attending class (without knowing how to get the best out of each class) or doing the required reading (without knowing why it's important to read the assigned material or how to assimilate it into a learning plan), but that also won't produce the best results, and it's not a lasting plan for success. Successful individuals do more than the basics, and they understand why they're doing what they're doing rather than aimlessly wandering until they happen upon something that works.
And Hibbard delivers the college success equivalent of joining a mixed martial arts gym. The advice contained in the book is based upon study techniques used by countless law students, but tuned towards college students (many of whom are beginners at knowing how to study in a higher-education environment). It's intense enough to carry the reader through college and through graduate school, but is in no way daunting, difficult, or complicated. What works for law students in "Law School Fast Track" also works for college students in "College Fast Track." Hibbard gives the reader the simple tools necessary to succeed in whatever academic studies they may encounter from this point forward. If his techniques are good enough for law students - which they are - then they're certainly good enough for undergrads.
Hibbard correctly identifies that many college success publications contain too much information; they're far too large, far too comprehensive, and to be honest, a reader who doesn't know how to study in the first place isn't going to learn the techniques from a book that is as complicated and difficult as a college textbook. Hibbard reduces his techniques for success (which he rightly calls "habits," as they go far deeper than mere tricks or tips that can be applied superficially to situations, and should be incorporated fully into the reader's subconscious and applied out of habit, changing behavior rather than merely adding one more thing to forget about while studying) into fifteen simple, well-explained and meaningful habits to acquire. And these fifteen habits are general enough to apply to a wide variety of situations encountered in college, but specific enough to provide meaningful guidance and a plan for succeeding. They aren't platitudes, nor are they ultra-specific. Learning and incorporating Hibbard's fifteen habits will go a long way towards making the reader an effective student in 99% of all situations. For example, one enumerated habit is to write everyday. Good advice indeed, and Hibbard goes to great lengths to explain why it's important and how to implement the habit; how to incorporating writing into the reader's everyday studies. After reading that section of the book, the reader will be ahead of the game when it comes to college students as a whole, most of whom consider writing once a week to be a chore, and most of whom will eventually realize their shortsightedness when they struggle to write a coherent letter, memo, email or presentation in the workplace.
I'm no fan of the direction higher education has taken in the United States over the past two decades, during which time the focus has shifted away from teaching, learning and developing minds, and shifted towards a four-year "experience," sports teams, endowments, prestige, creating marketable brands, luxury accommodation and surroundings, entertainment, and attracting students (and vast sums of money) in the same way a vacation destination would attract vacationers, or a company would attract investors. This could be me getting older, or it could be a legitimate complaint, the latter being more likely. Either way, many college guides focus far too much on the college experience and the fluff, and far too little on getting the reader's backside onto a seat in the classroom, lab or library and figuring out how to study and learn. Hibbard rightly avoids everything other than advice on how to get the most out of college from an academic standpoint (again, I'm sure due to him taking techniques from an environment in which academics are king - law school - and tweaking them for college, where academics are rarely king these days.) For students who want to avoid the fluff in college and actually graduate with a high GPA instead of a high number of embarrassing photos posted on Facebook, then Hibbard is your guide. For parents who want to send their kids off to college armed with solid fundamental study habits and the best chance of not forever ruining their GPA after a failure of a first semester or year (or, to think of it another way, to avoid having to pay for a fifth year of college, or to stand the best chance of having kids who will eventually find a job and leave home), then Hibbard is your guide too.