Book Review: What to Do When College is Not the Best Time of Your Life


College is a freeing time, a chance for students to pursue a course of study they want and a great opportunity for young people to discover who they are. But, college can be tremendously pressure-filled, an uncomfortable and even miserable place for some students.

Marketing Materials

Yes, all of the college marketing material you read indicates that the prospective school is the perfect place to study, with the most ideal faculty and student body working together to create the most memorable four years any student could possibly want.

Well, the ideal is far from reality for most students, with some finding college isn’t offering the best time of their lives. David Leibow, M.D., who is on the faculty of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a psychiatrist at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, has addressed the plight of struggling college students in his book, “What To Do When College Is Not The Best Time Of Your Life,” (2010 | Columbia University Press).

I was given a preview copy of the book and am supplying my objective and unsponsored findings with you here.

Meaty Questions

Before Dr. Leibow gets into the meat of his material, he presents the reader with a lengthy questionnaire to help current college students gauge what they think about college as well as what they think about themselves. Simple yes/no answers are expected and are designed to help the reader find out what is making college difficult for them and discovering what tools are available to change those perceptions.

Important topics are addressed by Leibow including homesickness, drugs, sexuality, friendship, self image and, of course, parents. Early on, Leibow notes the two driving reasons why students go to college: to pursue academic success and to separate themselves from their parents and high school friends and make a home for themselves at school.

Good Advice

Some of Leibow’s advice to students seems simple, but is worth reminding. “Don’t be a phony” is always sound guidance, but how many of us know students who are full of bull? And, can we always say that we are honest with ourselves if not with each other?

I accepted a review copy of the book because I was interested in what Leibow had to say about mental health. We’ve covered that topic on several times, including drawing attention to the rash of suicides on some college campuses. I wanted to find out what Leibow had to say about psychiatric drugs, depression and other illnesses and how those problems are handled or not in academia.

Mental Health

The reader should be encouraged to know that Leibow delves into mental health head on, explaining what signs students should look for in themselves as well as to see in each other. Leibow helps the reader understand how today’s drug medications are far different from those prescribed two decades ago, encouraging students to put aside shame and to seek help immediately when needed. Once stabilized, Leibow helps afflicted students move forward, reaching for productive lives despite their struggles.

Lastly, Leibow helps the reader refine their expectations about college, while equipping them with what they need to succeed. Yes, your personal perceptions could be getting in the way of helping you enjoy what should be a transformative time in your life, something Leibow wants to help you correct.

Adv. — College doesn’t need to leave you broke! Borrow only what you need, relying on your savings, college fund, scholarships and grants to cover most costs. If you need a private student loan, check out what Sallie Mae has to offer to you.


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Categories: Book Reviews