Anyone who teaches beginning college students knows how much they have changed in recent years. Today’s students are increasingly job-focused, skilled in using technology, and concerned about the future. And more than ever, students worry about how they will pay for college. Recently, popular media sources such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today have raised doubts about college’s worth, concerns about how student debt delays Millennials from starting families and businesses,1 and questions about whether money spent on a college degree would be better invested in a start-up business or travel.2 While it is tempting to focus on the few individuals who can find an alternate path to a successful future, we know, for the overwhelming majority of individuals, a college degree is more essential than ever before.

Understanding Your College Experience is designed specifically for institutions with high proportions of open-enrollment, nonresidential, and returning students. Thus it will work well at traditional two-year or community colleges, colleges that serve the same populations as traditional open-enrollment institutions but have growing numbers of selective admissions four-year programs particularly in health care, and four-year schools with many open-enrollment students. We’ve created this new edition of Understanding Your College Experience with also the underprepared students who need the most support in mind.

All of these students matter, and we’ve devoted our professional lives to them. To ensure that this new book speaks to as many of them as possible, we’ve labored to represent as many of them as possible in its pages. We want students who read Understanding Your College Experience to see themselves and their lives represented. Please see the list below for some of the student populations and situations we’ve worked to representwe think you’ll see many of your students here as well:

Each chapter of Understanding Your College Experience is designed to give students the practical help they need to gain self-knowledge, set goals, succeed, and persist so that their hopes and dreams have a better chance to become realities. Understanding Your College Experience offers skills and strategies in areas where first-year students often need the most support. These skills, such as academic and career preparation and planning, time management, and information literacy, are important for college courses and for the workplace. At a time when institutions are mainstreaming developmental education students and increasing class sizes, students will need more, not less, individual attention and skills so that they can ask for the help they need. Of course, concerns about student retention remain, as do pressures on college administrators to do more with less. These realities of college life mean that students need strategies they can use immediately.

This edition of Understanding Your College Experience is based on feedback from generations of users and our collective experience in teaching current students. It is grounded in the growing body of research on student success and retention and includes many valuable contributions from leading experts in the field. Most of all, it is a text born from our devotion to students and to their success: We simply do not want even a single student to fail.

Our writing style in this text is intended to convey respect and admiration for students while recognizing their continued need for challenge and support. The language and reading level are appropriate for first-year students. We have addressed topics that our experience, our research, and our reviewers tell us are concerns for students of many different educational backgrounds. We have also embedded various reading and writing strategies to scaffold students’ efforts to comprehend the material and apply the skills presented in each chapter. And we have included technology tools and tips that can enhance students’ studying experience.

Part One of Understanding Your College Experience, Welcome to Your College Experience, sets the stage with a significantly revised introductory chapter, Essentials for College Success, challenging students to explore their purpose for attending college, by helping them learn how to apply that purpose to both short- and long-term goal setting, and by understanding how critical academic planning is. A new Chapter 2 offers expanded and early coverage of Cultivating Motivation, Resilience, and Emotional Intelligence; emphasis on these topics reoccurs throughout the book. Students are armed with solid time, energy, and money management strategies in Chapter 3, and then they explore how they learn in Chapter 4. Part Two, Succeeding in College, enumerates essential study skills like reading, note taking, and test taking, and guides students in collecting, evaluating, and then using information in writing and speaking. Part Three, Your Path to Success in College and Beyond, emphasizes thinking in college and practical and realistic considerations such as maintaining wellness and relationships in the diverse environments where students live and work. Part Three also includes a comprehensive chapter on majors and careers.

Whether you are considering this textbook for use in your college success course or your first-year seminar, we thank you for your interest. We hope this book will guide you and your campus in understanding the broad range of issues that can affect student success.