13 books every new student—and campus leader—should read

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13 books every new student—and campus leader—should read

When the excitement of orientation wears off, your first-year students may find themselves struggling to adjust to a new environment or to find a sense of belonging, writes Brennan Barnard for Forbes.

Books about self-discovery and diverse college experiences can help, argues Barnard, a director of college counseling at The Derryfield School.

Barnard compiled a 13-book syllabus to guide incoming students through the tumultuous transition. We divided his recommendations into key lessons every student needs to learn in college.

How to lead a purposeful life

  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life by Ken Robinson
  • There is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow by Jeffery Selingo
  • Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

How to build resilience

  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  • The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey

How to understand your peers

  • A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League by Ron Suskind
  • What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan
  • The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy
  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

How to live on campus

  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen

Most of Barnard’s recommendations encourage students to approach college as a period for self-discovery. Several of the books push students to contemplate their purpose in life (and in college) and offer ways to honor that purpose in their studies or their career.

The books by Dweck, Lahey, and Duckworth suggest that self-discovery requires students to grow and learn from failure. “So much of the transition to college involves unlearning what we know about ourselves and cultivating resilience to meet new challenges,” says Carrie Daut, an advisor at Loyola University Chicago.

And the books that follow a first-gen student (A Hope in the Unseen), an athlete (What Made Maddy Run), and a cadet (Lords of Discipline) offer incoming students a chance to understand the diverse experiences of their peers. These books, which touch on mental health and loneliness, also urge students to ask for help when they need it and remind students that they’re not alone (Barnard, Forbes, 8/24/18).

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