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What the Best College Students Do

Ken Bain

ISBN 9780674066649

Publication date: 08/27/2012

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The author of the best-selling What the Best College Teachers Do is back with more humane, doable, and inspiring help, this time for students who want to get the most out of college—and every other educational enterprise, too.

The first thing they should do? Think beyond the transcript. The creative, successful people profiled in this book—college graduates who went on to change the world we live in—aimed higher than straight A’s. They used their four years to cultivate habits of thought that would enable them to grow and adapt throughout their lives.

Combining academic research on learning and motivation with insights drawn from interviews with people who have won Nobel Prizes, Emmys, fame, or the admiration of people in their field, Ken Bain identifies the key attitudes that distinguished the best college students from their peers. These individuals started out with the belief that intelligence and ability are expandable, not fixed. This led them to make connections across disciplines, to develop a “meta-cognitive” understanding of their own ways of thinking, and to find ways to negotiate ill-structured problems rather than simply looking for right answers. Intrinsically motivated by their own sense of purpose, they were not demoralized by failure nor overly impressed with conventional notions of success. These movers and shakers didn’t achieve success by making success their goal. For them, it was a byproduct of following their intellectual curiosity, solving useful problems, and taking risks in order to learn and grow.

Praise

  • Some very good books are worth reading for a few splendid pages alone. Ken Bain’s What the Best College Students Do is one such book. His interview with the TV satirist Stephen Colbert is revealing both for its insight into Colbert and for its ideas on how higher education ought to work… What the Best College Students Do combines interviews with a review of academic research on university learning. The book builds on Bain’s 2004 bestseller, What the Best College Teachers Do. To some extent, both books state what we already know—that straight A’s are nice, but hardly guarantee a happy or productive life. Instead, it takes a personal sense of purpose. The ‘best’ students are curious risk-takers who make connections across disciplines. By following those instincts—rather than simply chasing ‘success’—the best students achieved it. Bain’s new book is a wonderful exploration of excellence.

    —David A. Kaplan, Fortune

Author

  • Ken Bain is President of the Best Teachers Institute and a former professor of history at Northwestern, Vanderbilt, the University of Texas, and New York University.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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