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What the Best College Students Do

What the Best College Students Do

Ken Bain
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    What the Best College Students Do
    Book Description:

    The author of the best-selling What the Best College Teachers Do is back with humane, doable, and inspiring help for students who want to get the most out of their education. The first thing they should do? Think beyond the transcript. Use these four years to cultivate habits of thought that enable learning, growth, and adaptation throughout life.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06747-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. 1 The Roots of Success
    (pp. 1-31)

    Sherry Kafka came from a small town in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her little community in the backwoods of that largely rural state had none of the artistic trappings that would later define her life and make her one of the most celebrated designers and planners in the country. In fact, she later reported, her town didn’t even have a movie theater. Once a week, “a gentleman” would come to town with a tent, set it up in the square, and show a movie “if he didn’t get drunk that week.”

    Her family didn’t have much money, and they moved around...

  4. 2 What Makes an Expert?
    (pp. 32-63)

    When Jeff Hawkins was growing up on the north shore of Long Island, years before he designed a small computing device that changed the world, he and his two brothers and his father invented stuff, mostly wild-looking contraptions that floated. “My house was a little like the old movie You Can’t Take It with You,” he later reported. At dinnertime, the boys and their father wolfed down their meals and went immediately to the gigantic garage that seemed larger than all the rest of the house put together. In that magic space, they tinkered with plastics, metals, and woods, fashioning...

  5. 3 Managing Yourself
    (pp. 64-98)

    “How can you think about your own thinking while you are thinking?” I asked a college student recently who was working in my favorite Peruvian fusion restaurant. She looked at me, puzzled. “That’s too much thinking,” she finally said, as she laid a plate of roast chicken, plantains, and rice on my table. Yet answering that question is essential to achieving success in college and finding a creative life. It actually makes life and thinking less cluttered and clearer, not more so.

    If you understand how you think and work, you have more control over who you will become. Abilities...

  6. 4 Learning How to Embrace Failure
    (pp. 99-132)

    When I was in school, I failed French twice. I also accumulated a few bad grades in Latin before barely mustering enough credits to satisfy the minimum foreign language requirement. Most of the advice I received focused on propping up my faltering confidence. “You just have to believe you can do it,” coaxed a good friend. Others in my entourage of well-wishers took a more fatalistic view. “Some people have a knack for language, and others don’t,” offered a skinny kid from Seymour, Texas. Still others urged me simply to try a little harder. Meanwhile, I cycled through a range...

  7. 5 Messy Problems
    (pp. 133-163)

    One hot and lazy summer day last year, I was sitting on my patio working on this book and watching a six-year-old play baseball with his younger brother. While he pounded the ball into his glove, I had a computer in my lap and was plugging away at the keyboard. At one point he crept up next to me, looked over my shoulder at the work on the screen, and asked the most difficult of questions: “Where do we go when we die?”

    Not wanting to get into that discussion, I deflected his inquiry. “I don’t know,” I answered.


  8. 6 Encouragement
    (pp. 164-198)

    Kristin Neff had a problem. The young psychologist from Texas was going through some rough personal times, and she had every reason to become anxious and depressed.¹ At that point in her life, she could perhaps read with renewed interest and understanding a growing debate within her field. For decades, Americans had seen self-esteem as the key to a successful, happy life. Psychologists had provided study after study to show that loving and admiring yourself offered advantages in the race for happiness and well-being. Self-esteem breeds confidence, scholars and counselors kept saying, and confident people try new things and enjoy...

  9. 7 Curiosity and Endless Education
    (pp. 199-220)

    On a hot September afternoon, four hundred students crushed into a small auditorium, looking for seats on the long rows that curved around like giant horseshoes. As the room filled with chattering voices, each one grew louder to compete with the clamor around them.

    After a few minutes, a tall, thin man wearing white running shoes, brown trousers, and a blue shirt entered and stood at a podium in the front of the room. From their seats, most of the students could look down at the top of his head. He clipped on a lavalier microphone and cleared his throat....

  10. 8 Making the Hard Choices
    (pp. 221-257)

    Jo Rowling, the woman who created Harry Potter, recently stood before a Harvard graduating class and told them a story from her own life. When she went off to the university to study, she said, her “parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college,” hoped that she would study something “useful,” a subject that would earn her a living and keep her out of poverty. They wanted her to pursue “a vocational degree,” she explained. “I wanted to study English Literature.”

    Perhaps after some family bickering, she reached a compromise with them...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 258-260)

    College students today face enormous pressures that many of our subjects never endured, or at least not to the same degree. Social, economic, political, and cultural forces compel them to follow a surface or strategic approach to their studies. With the cost of higher education rising and public financial support declining, many students face substantial debts to pay for their education. They often feel pressured to finish school as quickly as possible in order to reduce those debts and begin earning money to pay them back. They emphasize making money over every other goal in life, and fear for their...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 263-280)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 281-282)
  14. Index
    (pp. 283-289)