The Secret Syllabus: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of College Success

Princeton Univ. (Skills for Scholars). May 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780691224404. $55; pap. ISBN 9780691224428. $18.95. ED
Drawing on more than 30 years in academic life, including as university professors, Phelan (life sciences, UCLA; What Is Life? A Guide to Biology) and Burnham (finance, Chapman Univ.; Mean Markets and Lizard Brains) offer practical, supportive tips that college students can use when facing unfamiliar norms and unwritten rules of academia. The authors offer real-life scenarios for improving academic performance through effective notetaking, study skills, language learning, term papers, and exam strategies. The authors argue that building relationships with professors is more valuable than good grades. Strategies for developing professional relationships with professors begin with demonstrating positive classroom behaviors, effectively using office hours, and maintaining appropriate contact which may lead to recommendations, research opportunities, and internships. Readers learn that resiliency, the ability to recover from and persevere in the face of setbacks, is essential for both academic and future career success. Lively discussions are interspersed with anecdotes from the authors’ academic experiences and those of their students. With the prevalence of online courses, it is unfortunate that the authors do not address how to develop and maintain professor relationships in a virtual environment.
VERDICT The honest, straightforward advice will be appreciated by students. A valuable resource for any college student.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing