The YUBlog Book Guide to University Success Part 2

Posted by Megan on May 5, 2015

Journey to the Centre of York

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This was originally a quote about music from Plato, but… books. Just books.

Another day, another great list of books to read!

Today I thought I’d share with you some reading recommendations from current upper-year students at York. These are the books that changed them — their perspectives, their academic skill sets and quite possibly their futures. For four additional works I believe you should put on your reading list, check out part 1 of this blog post duo.

#1 – Professors’ Guide to Getting Good Grades in College

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My friend, and fellow York student, Humaira Inam told me about this book. “This is a really good book for first-years and students who want to excel in university/post-secondary education,” she says; “I usually recommend these tips to others.”

At first glance this guide seems quite similar to Becoming a Master Student, which I recommended in part 1. But structural differences — the Professors’ Guide to Getting Good Grade in College is divided into five sections reflecting a typical semester cycle at university, rather than chapters focusing on different academic skills — might actually make it a great companion piece to Becoming a Master Student. As you work through “The Start,” “The Class,” “The Exam,” “The Paper,” and “The Last Month of the Semester” in tandem with the typical progression of your courses, you will notice your levels of stress and worry decrease. Instead, you might well find yourself ever more confident in your academic skill set. A student who has read both the Professors’ Guide and Becoming a Master Student would definitely be a force to reckon with!

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Here’s what one professor, Martin Hahn, had to say on Amazon:

“As a long time professor myself, I am always on the lookout for things that might help my students grasp the basics, and not so basics, of success in the college/university setting. I simply don’t have time to do this myself, but it is painfully obvious that many (most, probably) students could do with some advice. And here is a book that will actually do it: it is sensible, thorough, and very informative. It goes through almost every aspect of what it takes to succeed, and it does it with style, wit, and even patience. Highly recommended.”

#2 – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

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This book comes highly recommended from a friend and fellow LeaderShaper, Ervin Garcia. In Ervin’s view, “reading this book is a great way to learn how to manage and change your habits, both the good and the bad. Just changing one habit can have a great impact in your everyday life.” That’s probably something we would all benefit from, so the Huffington Post‘s  assessment is good news: “Duhigg’s writing is easy to consume and is sure to make you laugh. You’ll forget that this non-fiction book has as many stats as your college psych textbook.”

#3 + #4 – How to Become a Straight A Student and How to Win at College by Cal Newport

Sumaya Km, a fourth-year student in Psychology, recommends two books by Cal Newport because “they are both really easy reads and have a ton of great advice for students!”

Newport is a computer scientist and assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He also writes a blog, Study Hacks, which he started as a PhD candidate at MIT in 2007.

Let’s see what some readers say on Amazon.

How to Become a Straight A Student

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Gerla writes that How to Become a Straight A Student “provides very useful suggestions intended for undergrads or college students. I wish I had read it during my first year; it would have saved me a lot of struggle. I would recommend it to anyone who is pursuing post-secondary education. The actual content of the book includes suggestions on how to worry less and receive better grades, while it gives advice on notetaking skills, paper writing tips, and exam preparation in the most efficient way.”

How to Win at College

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A reviewer writing under the name of “Book dallier” claims that How to Win at College is “not for the average student[;] this book, the only one in its category, will teach you how to have brilliant success in college. While other college survival-type books are about healthy habits, emotional balance, how to do laundry etc., this one is for those who probably haven’t needed such hovering help in awhile. In an excellent format (lots of little, very concrete tips, each of which gets a few pages of explanation), Cal Newport, himself a recent grad, lays out what separates the truly high achievers from the simply smart. The tips are not obvious or general, but precise and interesting (“Use High-Quality Notebooks”, “Apply to Ten Scholarships a Year”) and well-researched (the author says he compiled them by speaking to many exceptional students, including Rhodes scholars, entrepreneurs, productive researchers and published writers, from all over the Ivy League). The tone, unlike in many advice books by older adults, is never cute or patronizing. This is a very, very useful book if you’re motivated and in for the long haul.”

Other Resources

These are all the book recommendations for today. With the end of this two-part mini series, you now have eight student-recommended books for self-betterment and academic success available to look into. Reading is just one tool among many, of course, and York provides many other resources to help high school students transition to university. Take a look below for a few alternate resources.

  1. Learning Skills Services offers a variety of free skills-based workshops not only throughout the main school year but also in summer! Make sure to check back later in the summer for some great transition workshops such as “Starting Off Strong.”
  2. For those intimidated by the prospect of university-level academic writing, York’s Student Papers & Academic Research Kit (SPARK) provides a free and accessible online resource that helps you through every step of your writing.
  3. Similar (but much more specialized) to guidance counsellors in high school, academic advisers gladly make themselves available to answer your questions related to school policy, your degree, and being a strong student. You can reach out to advisers both through your College and through a Faculty.
  4. Sometimes the best way to grow as a student comes with the help of someone who has recently walked in your shoes. For this reason, York offers many forms of peer mentoring, ranging from the  International Student Peer Program to SOS Peer Mentoring (for lower-year math and sciences courses) and Faculty-specific peer assistance. My colleague Clivane recently wrote an awesome post on various kinds of peer support available at York. If you need further help connecting with these services, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, so we can point you in the right direction.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, feel free to tweet us @yorkustudents or comment below! We’d love to hear from you.



Megan is a third-year Psychology student. Follow her on her journey of self-development as she explores and ventures through campus.

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