Cover: Practice for Life: Making Decisions in College, from Harvard University PressCover: Practice for Life in HARDCOVER

Practice for Life

Making Decisions in College

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Product Details

HARDCOVER

$36.00 • £28.95 • €32.50

ISBN 9780674970663

Publication Date: 08/15/2016

Text

256 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

World

From the day they arrive on campus, college students spend four years—or sometimes more—making decisions that shape every aspect of their academic and social lives. Whether choosing a major or a roommate, some students embrace decision-making as an opportunity for growth, while others seek to minimize challenges and avoid risk. Practice for Life builds a compelling case that a liberal arts education offers students a complex, valuable process of self-creation, one that begins in college but continues far beyond graduation.

Sifting data from a five-year study that followed over two hundred students at seven New England liberal arts colleges, the authors uncover what drives undergraduates to become engaged with their education. They found that students do not experience college as having a clear beginning and end but as a continuous series of new beginnings. They start and restart college many times, owing to the rhythms of the academic calendar, the vagaries of student housing allocation, and other factors. This dynamic has drawbacks as well as advantages. Not only students but also parents and faculty place enormous weight on some decisions, such as declaring a major, while overlooking the small but significant choices that shape students’ daily experience.

For most undergraduates, deep engagement with their college education is at best episodic rather than sustained. Yet these disruptions in engagement provide students with abundant opportunities for reflection and course-correction as they learn to navigate the future uncertainties of adult life.

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Who We Might Have Been, and Who We Will Become

Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.