Cover: What the Best College Students Do, from Harvard University PressCover: What the Best College Students Do in HARDCOVER

What the Best College Students Do

Product Details


$32.00 • £27.95 • €29.95

ISBN 9780674066649

Publication Date: 08/27/2012


304 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


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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 (online)

Bain reports on research about highly ‘creative,’ productive, and socially conscious students and how they negotiated college to attain their goals. They developed a ‘deep,’ transformative learning orientation, tenaciously pursuing what mattered to them over high grades. He reports that these successful students turned failure/mistakes into learning opportunities; learned to make choices/decisions in murky situations by reflecting and learning from past experience; and maintained self-esteem, which sustained them through failures or setbacks on their way to achieving goals. Bain writes in noncomplex language and artfully weaves scholarly literature and rich narratives from dozens of interviewees into a provocative, interesting, and fast-moving book… This book is informative and beneficial not only for current and future college students, but also professors, researchers, and parents and caregivers who strive to foster successful learning in children.—D. Truty, Choice

The experiences of successful students are certainly burnished by exposure to the length and breadth of a liberal curriculum, but they are spurred by awe and fascination. The best students seek the meaning behind the text, its implications and applications, and how those implications interact with what they have already learned. To think in so rich and robust a way as Bain describes—‘trying to answer questions or solve problems that they regard as important, intriguing, or just beautiful’—is an aspiration of the first order… A soundly encouraging guide for college students to think deeply and for as long as it takes.Kirkus Reviews

What the Best College Students Do delivers on the promise of its title with rich descriptions of what the best college students do, how they think, and what they believe. Bain challenges his readers to give up the standard model of short-term success, in favor of deep learning with payoffs in living purposefully and well. I wish every college student, and every parent, could approach higher education with this sage orientation. It isn’t just about the ‘A.’—Pamela Barnett, Temple University

We are always telling students to ‘find their passion.’ Now we have a book that looks at how that happens, and how we can encourage students to use their uniqueness, and be more curious and more resilient. Ken Bain can really tell a story and it is very rare for a book based upon research to be such a compelling read.—José Antonio Bowen, Southern Methodist University

Ken Bain, author of the best-selling What the Best College Teachers Do, has written the perfect follow-up. He skillfully weaves together some of the best research about effective learning strategies with moving stories about remarkable life-long learners. Some of them had great teachers. But most of them succeed because of what they did for themselves. If every college teacher read the first book and every student read this new one, we’d have taken a huge step toward solving some of the great challenges for higher education.—Thomas Luxon, Dartmouth College

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