A few people have raised the question to me in some form or another: “Why is Thriving at College so long? I’d like to give it to my high school graduates, but I’m not sure they’d read it.” Though I’ve replied to a few e-mails and blog posts, I thought this might be a good place to summarize my thoughts.
Thriving at College is intended to be comprehensive in its scope. Other books have given in-depth treatment to the intellectual challenges Christians face from atheism and relativism, particularly in secular university environments. I wanted to address these matters, but I also wanted to treat the host of other challenges that Christians face in college. Put the matter another way: Assuming that a Christian’s faith remains intact, does it follow that he or she will thrive at college? I don’t think so. They may graduate as a somewhat older Christian adolescent, still unready for the challenges of adult society, and in deep debt. Sadly, many do.
Thriving at college requires more, not less, than maintaining faith in Christ (essential as that is). It requires making adjustments to the academic and social realities of college, wisely selecting companions and close friends, handling oneself with purity and intentionality in opposite-sex relationships, and honoring Mom and Dad while (and by) taking on the mantle of adulthood, including the associated functional/economic responsibilities. It also requires learning to love God with all your mind, striving for academic excellence, discovering your vocation, and capitalizing on opportunities.
Going to college is a big deal; it affects every part of a young person’s life, and it sets a trajectory for the rest of their lives. The Table of Contents gives the scope of topics covered, and every effort was made to enhance readability:
1. The book is broken up into four sections. I consciously wrote it so that students could literally pick a section that interested them and start there. Many have been doing just that.
2. Students could even pick just a chapter. The chapters are structured around ten common mistakes (to avoid) and, conversely, ten “thrive principles” to develop/practice/maintain. And each chapter has a 1-2 paragraph conclusion section. Each chapter can, to a great extent, stand alone.
3. The text of the individual chapters is broken up with interesting factoids, as well as questions from actual students along with my brief (~2 paragraph) responses. Tyndale actually hired several students, in different majors, attending different kinds of college, to read the chapters and supply questions. In addition, the actual text contains many real-life illustrations/examples from actual students (including myself, from my college days) mixed in with the prose, so the tone is not overly didactic. Check it out for yourself here or here.
4. The “focus group” of student readers I had did not find it overwhelming. On the contrary, they found it highly readable, even hard to put down.
5. The Appendices are in some ways optional and may not be applicable to every reader.
One last thing: I think we should be careful, in general, in assuming that 17-19 year olds cannot read well-written books of substance. Young adults of this age tend to live up or down to our expectations. If you don’t think the book is good or helpful, that’s one thing. But if you do think it has value, why not get it for them? They can’t read it if they don’t have it, and they don’t have to read it cover-to-cover to benefit. 🙂