The College Success Handbook: A Practical Guide
The College Success Handbook: A Practical Guide

The College Success Handbook: A Practical Guide

Lead Author(s): Brian Williams, Carl Wahlstrom, Stacey Sawyer

Student Price: Contact us to learn more

The College Success Handbook, from BVT Publishing, is a concise yet comprehensive textbook with all of the content required to teach a typical College Success or FYE course. This Top Hat version contains everything you need for before, during, and after class. Students can read fully customizable chapters with built-in active learning components and formative assessment elements. Each chapter is accompanied by PowerPoint slides with built-in comprehension questions and engagement tools. After class students can engage with pre-made, fully customizable homework assignments, plus chapter summaries for student review. There is also a comprehensive chapter-by-chapter Instructor’s Manual; pre-made customizable midterm and final exams; and extensive test banks.

The College Success Handbook - A Practical Guide, 2019 Edition, by Williams, et al. Copyright BVT Publishing.
* The following content is based on the textbook The College Success Handbook: A Practical Guide, by Williams et al., from BVT Publishing, however the content may have been modified by others.



Emeritus Professor, Genesee Community College and
State University of New York Distinguished Service Professor


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Publisher and Managing Director: Richard Schofield
Production and Fulfillment Manager: Janai Escobedo
Textbook Specialist: Chad Peterson
Managing Editor: Anne Schofield
Reference and Ancillary Coordinator: Tiffany Koopal
Permissions Coordinator: Jade Elk
Indexer: Suzanne Schmidt
Proofreader: Matt Ferguson

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address BVT Publishing, P.O. Box 492831, Redding, CA 96049-2831. Some ancillaries, including electronic and print components, may not be available to customers outside the United States.

Copyright © 2019 by BVT Publishing

TextbookPlus (Loose-Leaf Bundle) ISBN: 978-1-5178-0582-1
eBookPlus ISBN: 978-1-5178-0581-4
Loose-Leaf ISBN: 978-1-5178-0580-7
Soft Cover ISBN: 978-1-5178-0588-3


A PROMISE:    to make learning about college success easy, efficient, and effective.

We have written and designed this book to help college students be successful both inside and outside the classroom. It can be used in two ways:

  • As a handbook. It can be a quick-reference self-help guide that can fit in a student’s pocket or backpack or read on a mobile device.
  • As a textbook. When used with other instructional materials offered by the publisher, it can be a textbook for a College Success course for first-year students.

Our principal goal is simple to state but hard to execute: to make learning about college as easy, efficient, and effective as possible—to give first-year college students a research-based yet highly readable, innovative, and practical book.

Accordingly, following an approach we have found effective in some of our other books1, we integrate writing, design, and layout in 14 brief, easily readable chapters in a handbook-like format that respects the time constraints and interests of today’s students.

Thus, our book has five key features:

  1. Format and content that are mobile-device friendly
  2. A student approach to learning
  3. Emphasis on practicality
  4. Engaging and efficient writing to help students retain information
  5. Distinctive topic coverage for the times we live in

 Feature #1: Format & Content That Are Mobile-Device Friendly
A generation that grew up on smartphones deserves a new kind of textbook, with content that engages mobile readers. Accordingly, you will find our presentation features short sentences, many headings, frequent paragraphs, bulleted lists, lots of white space, and other matters to adjust to the on-screen format. We have also prioritized brevity, judiciously editing content to create tighter writing and removing unnecessary images and fluff. For users seeking more information, we have deferred expanded material to in-text boxes and tables.

 Feature #2: A Student Approach to Learning
We structure topics into easily manageable portions coupled with frequent reinforcement, using the following techniques:

  • Provocative chapter titles and subtitles.
    Each chapter title is followed by a subtitle that is provocative, motivational, or makes a promise to the reader. Examples:        
    “Mastering Time: In a World of Infinite Choices, Making the Right Ones”  
    “Developing Critical & Creative Thinking: Using Your Optimum Brainpower to Take Control” “Boosting Your Social Skills: Building the Soft Skills That Will Help You All Your Life” 
  • Intriguing chapter questions—designed to help students read with purpose.
    Each chapter begins with four major questions—“Questions I Would Like to Be Able to Answer,” which are written to appeal to students’ concerns and to help them read with purpose. Examples: “How could college make a difference in my life?”         
    “Why am I so reluctant to ask for assistance?”        
    “Do I worry less about learning and more about looking bad when failure occurs?”        
    “How do I go about giving a speech?”
  • “The Successful Student’s Toolbox”—intended to make students think in unorthodox ways about the chapter subject matter to come.
    This chapter-opening device contains unusual, often counterintuitive material designed to get students to think in outside-the-box ways about the chapter contents they are about to study. Examples:       
    “What Would My Professors Tell Me If They Could Speak Freely?”—on getting the support you need.  “Boredom: What It Is, When It’s Useful”—on becoming a super learner.        
    “Which Is Better: Being Cool? Or Being My Own Person?”—on critical and creative thinking.
    “How Could I Justify Cheating on a Test?”—on becoming expert at exams.   

Feature #3: Emphasis on Practicality: “Ticket to Success” Boxes
We would like this book to be a “keeper” for students, a resource for future courses and for their careers. Thus, we offer a great deal of practical advice, expressed not only in the text but also in “Ticket to Success” boxes. These boxes also offer interesting advice that students will find useful in college and later. Examples:
       “Making Friends in College”
       “How Can I Achieve Grit & Growth?”
       “Helping the Tutor Help You”
       “Smartphone Addiction: How to Spot It, How to Fight It”
       “Heavy Hits to Your Health You Need to Avoid: Common Student Diseases & Disorders”
       “How Do I Shift from a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset?”

Feature #4: Engaging & Efficient Writing to Help Students Retain Information
Research shows that textbooks that are written in an imaginative, people-oriented style significantly improve students’ ability to retain information. We employ a number of devices to make the material as engaging and efficient as possible for students:

  • Frequent use of advance organizers, tag lines, and “bite-size” text. We make generous use of advance organizers, memorable tag lines, bulleted lists with run-in headings, and presentation of major ideas in bite-size form.
  • Key terms and definitions all in boldface. Key terms are printed in boldface italic red, with the definition in boldface, to help students build their vocabulary. (Example: “Grit is being able to pursue long-term goals with passion and perseverance. Grit isn’t talent or luck or . . .”)
  • People-oriented writing. To convey the real “texture of life” feeling of being in college—and in the world—we employ such journalistic devices as a conversational  style, attention-grabbing quotes, biographical sketches, and real advice from real people.

Feature #5: Distinctive Topic Coverage for the Times We Live In
The College Success Handbook offers the same features that users have come to expect in this area: How to manage time. How to take notes. How to read a textbook. How to be successful at test taking. How to be a better writer. We also offer chapters on money management, health matters, social skills, and career advice.

Beyond these, we cover topics not normally found in competing books that are crucial to success. Examples:
       What to learn to survive the technological future
       The drawbacks of smartphones and multitasking and the “fear of missing out”
       False learning shortcuts that don’t work: highlighting textbooks, typing lecture notes
       The fear of looking stupid and the Voice of Judgment
       Why effortful learning is the best way to memorize
       Free speech versus the right not to be offended
       Tribalism—when groupthink overwhelms truth

A list of these topics appears in the box below.

begin content for distinctive topics

Distinctive  Topic Coverage in This Book
What to learn to survive the technological future
Why nontraditional students outnumber traditional students in college
The importance of making friends in college and how to do it
The need to develop grit—perseverance, persistence, resilience
Setting S-M-A-R-T goals for long-term success
Finding your own mantra to get you through  
How much time to allow for different kinds of schoolwork
Different suggested lengths of study sessions and break times
The drawbacks of smartphones and multitasking and the “fear of missing out”
False learning shortcuts that don’t work: highlighting textbooks, typing lecture notes
The fear of looking stupid and the Voice of Judgment
Dealing with learning disabilities
Making friends in college after the first few weeks
How to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset
Why altering study conditions is better than having one favorite study area
Why effortful learning is the best way to memorize
Using retrieval practice, feedback and calibration, spacing, interleaving, elaboration, generation,
Valuable skills that employers want and most college grads lack
Free speech versus the right not to be offended
Microaggressions and trigger warnings
Biases as barriers to critical thinking
Tribalism—when groupthink overwhelms truth
Addictive technology—when smartphones make you less smart
Ways to spur your creative powers
Memorizing a lecture while not taking notes
Effortful learning: handwriting is better than typing for note-taking
When digital tools aren’t helpful to learning
Popular note-taking apps
How online students should handle note-taking
Kinds of lecture information to pay special attention to
Teachers and teaching styles
Reading printed textbooks versus digital textbooks
Prereading strategy: skimming the chapter backward
Prereading strategy: THIEVES, or ripping off the essential parts
Test taking: unloading on the back of the test
Paper writing: writing to the professor’s rubric
Useful research note-taking apps
Unusual ways of getting help with college costs
Money and mindfulness
Students struggling with homelessness and hunger
Mobile wallets
De-stressing: breathing, progressive muscular relaxation, and meditation
Smoking and vaping
“Study drugs” and other prescription drugs
Behavioral addictions: gambling and spending
Sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence
Brain food
Super soft skills: curiosity, emotional intelligence, and cultural intelligence
Sexual orientation: gender fluidity
Socializing and social media: phones, phubbing, and feelings
Lies spread online
Privacy concerns: protecting your data
Becoming expert at listening
Work and your life’s purpose
Aptitude tests to help you establish your career interests
Networking and the value of being nice
Handling an informational interview
College for commuter and part-time students
College for transfer students and the problem of articulation agreements
College for adult learners, including students who are parents and are veterans
College for international students and coping with culture shock

end content for Distinctive Topics


The authors want to express their great appreciation for the exceptional work done by the BVT Publishing staff to make this book a reality—in particular, Richard Schofield, Ph.D., Publisher & Managing Director; Janai Escobedo, Production & Fulfillment Manager; Chad Peterson, Textbook Specialist; Anne Schofield, Managing Editor; Tiffany Koopal, Reference and Ancillary Coordinator; Jade Elk, Permissions Coordinator; Suzanne Schmidt, indexer; and Matt Ferguson, proofreader.

About the Authors

BRIAN K. WILLIAMS and Stacey C. Sawyer are professional educational writers and book producers who live in Nevada near Lake Tahoe and share an avid interest in seeing college students become well educated. Over the past two decades, they have individually or together authored more than 26 books (over 70, counting revisions) in such subjects as college success, health, information technology, management, and business.

Brian has been Managing Editor for college textbook publisher Harper & Row/Canfield Press in San Francisco; Editor in Chief for trade book publisher J. P. Tarcher in Los Angeles; Publications & Communications Manager for the University of California, Systemwide Administration, in Berkeley; and an independent writer and book producer based in the San Francisco and Lake Tahoe areas. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Communication from Stanford University.

Besides The College Success Handbook and six other college success books with Carl Wahlstrom, he has coauthored more than 17 other books. They include the leading seller in its field, Management 8th ed., with Angelo Kinicki (McGraw-Hill Education); Marriages, Families, & Intimate Relationships 4th ed., with Stacey Sawyer and Carl Wahlstrom (Pearson); and Using Information Technology 11th ed., with Stacey Sawyer (McGraw-Hill).

CARL M. WAHLSTROM is Professor Emeritus of Transitional Studies and Sociology at Genesee Community College, Batavia, New York, and also former visiting lecturer at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

In 2007, he was designated a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor (the highest recognition SUNY can bestow on its faculty). He has also been the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creativity. In addition, he has been awarded the Outstanding First-Year Advocate Award, a national honor of which only 10 are given out each year; the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development at the University of Texas at Austin; the New York Tech Prep School-To-Work Outstanding College Educator Award; as well as several other teaching honors. He is past president of the New York College Learning Skills Association and a member of the SUNY College Transition Course Development Council. He is an active presenter and educational consultant at the national, state, and local levels.

Besides developing and teaching first-year experience courses, he has taught courses in human development, learning strategy, sociology, psychology, and human relations. He has a B.S. in Sociology and an M.S. Ed. in Counselor Education from SUNY Brockport and an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Bridgeport.

Carl is coauthor, with Brian Williams, of Learning Success 3rd ed., The Practical Student, The Urban Student, The Commuter Student, College to Career, and The Successful Distance Learning Student (all with Cengage). With Brian Williams and Stacey Sawyer, he is also coauthor of Marriages, Families, & Intimate Relationships 4th ed. (Pearson). He lives with his wife, Nancy, an employee benefits consultant, in the Finger Lakes area of New York.

STACEY C. SAWYER is an independent writer and book producer who has been based in the San Francisco and Lake Tahoe areas. She has taught at Ohio State University and been a manager for Brooks/Cole Publishing Company in Monterey, California. Earlier she was Director of Founder’s Clinic, a women’s reproductive health and family planning clinic in Columbus, Ohio.

She has a B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan and the University of Freiburg, Germany, and an M.A. from Middlebury College and the University of Mainz, Germany. Stacey is coauthor of Computers, Communications, & Information, a college textbook in print for 15 years. She and Brian also cowrote Using Information Technology, now in its 11th edition. Finally, she is coauthor with Brian and Carl of Marriages, Families, & Intimate Relationships 4th ed. (Pearson).



1. Management, 8th ed. (McGraw-Hill Education) and Marriages, Families, & Intimate Relationships, 4th ed. (Pearson).