“Letters to a New Student” book review

“Letters to a New Student” is a short but extremely helpful guide not only for new and current students, but for their parents and family, to get new ideas and advice on how to study better and how to help other people. Even though the author Dr. Gary W. Wood is a Chartered Psychologist with varied qualifications and teaching experience, the book is written without much jargon, and in his words, “in plain English”. His approachable and brief approach to the reader makes it picking up the book an interesting and rewarding experience. Dr. Wood’s advice is supported with human psychology given in 12 clear sections with questions from real students, answers from Dr. Wood, and clear-cut action points and take away messages.

One does not need to dedicate a huge chunk of time reading the entire book in the beginning of the year. It is, in fact, best used when one reads the relevant sections whenever they need to. The first section is about “Attitudes” which ensures the reader has the right mindset before beginning to study. Other sections like “Wellbeing”, “Context” and “Emotions” address important holistic areas of learning which would not seem very obvious before reading the book, but have tremendous benefits. Other sections like “Cognition”, “Techniques” and “Revision” give short and intuitive action points to make studying and revision less daunting than it sounds. Each section ends with a clear summary and the book has a summary at the end as well. The book answers questions and concerns many students may keep secret to themselves, like university not meeting their expectations from movies, or bad coping mechanisms one picks up during exam season, or how to find the right balance of stress to be productive in a healthy manner. Each section is connected with the other sections in a book by overlaps and the consistent sign posts make the book very easy to navigate.

The main goal of the book is to teach the reader how to study “smarter, not harder” hopefully arming them with the tools to become a better student. The book ends with an “exam”, where Dr. Wood invites the reader to deeply engage with the book by asking them questions which allow the reader to reflect not only on what they learned from the book, but they want to take with them moving forward and in general to probe the reader to become a more active student. There is also a section in the back with additional notes and resources to pursue for areas of interest.  The book’s aim is to be an intentional and continual conversation between the author and the reader, allowing the reader to feel comfortable in their pace in improvement and not just feel like they’re just going through their reading.

This article was written by Aditi Jain and edited by Karolina Zieba

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