Finally, a college prep book that actually prepares students for college!

Nearly every first-year college student discovers that college courses are more academically challenging than they expected, and certainly harder than classes in high school. Professors expect students not just to absorb material, but to analyze and synthesize it, to consider multiple perspectives, to evaluate conflicting evidence, and then to apply what they’ve learned in new contexts.

Thinking Critically in College explains how to do all this and more.

Unlike most college prep books—which advise you to go to office hours, get enough sleep, take good notes, and learn how to get along with your roommate—this one actually shows you how to do the work your professors will assign and explains how to tackle common academic challenges. This accessible and comprehensive handbook covers metacognition (thinking about how you think); basic critical thinking skills; college-level reading, writing, and quantitative reasoning; how to think about academic disciplines; decoding actual assignments from college courses, and tackling research projects.

Lee Cuba, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Wellesley College, and author of Practice for Life: Making Decisions in College

Written in a personal, engaging style that draws on the author’s experience as a professor and academic advisor for nearly forty years, Thinking Critically in College is an indispensable guide to doing the work of college for students from all academic backgrounds.

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Praise for Thinking Critically in College

Thinking Critically in College details and exemplifies the differences between high school and college. Students who read this book before coming to college will have an advantage over those who don’t.”

Lee Cuba

Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Wellesley College, and author of Practice for Life: Making Decisions in College

“Even students who have taken college-prep and AP courses are unprepared for the type of learning that will take place in college. Thinking Critically in College is poised to help all students at all types of institutions develop the dispositions and skills necessary for success in college.”

Lynn Pasquerella

President of Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)

“No other ‘how-to-do-college’ book takes a deep dive into what it takes for college students to thrive academically and cultivate the habits of an educated mind. Newman offers a treasure trove of helpful examples to illustrate how undergraduates need to think and what they should do to effectively meet the learning challenges they will encounter during and after college.”

George D. Kuh

Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Higher Education, Indiana University

“What college students could surely use now is an owner’s manual of sorts, to ensure they are well-prepared to get the most out of the next four years. Drawing on his deep expertise and experience in the delivery of an array of student support services, Louis Newman has taken on the challenge of writing just such a book, which is desperately needed.”

Jacques Steinberg

New York Times bestselling author of The Gatekeepers and co-author of The College Conversation

“Students need a book that speaks directly to them as they launch their college careers. The research is available. Volumes have been written to support faculty in teaching students so that enduring learning occurs. There are a growing number of ‘how-to-learn’ courses in college. But Thinking Critically in College is the first resource to fill all these needs. It is a must read for beginning college students. I can’t think of anyone better positioned to write this book than Louis Newman.”

Susan Singer

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Rollins College

“This book could not be more timely! At a time of increasing numbers of first-generation college students, Thinking Critically in College will help them succeed in college and beyond. Newman’s comprehensive approach demystifies what many students perceive as the ‘faculty language.’ He empowers his readers with language and tools to build meaningful relationships, learn valuable skills, and unpack the academic world. If you question the value of a college education, you will find your answer in this book! Truly a valuable guide for all college students, especially those in their first year.”

Susana Rivera-Mills

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Ball State University

“I can’t wait to assign this book in my first-year courses! Drawing on decades of professional experience and the latest research, Louis Newman is the ideal guide to critical thinking—and also to learning, writing, and the other core academic experiences in college. I particularly appreciate his invitation to ‘begin with questions’ and his ‘Advice for the Road Ahead’ that provides concrete steps toward success. All students will benefit from reading and discussing this book.”

Peter Felten

Executive Director, Center for Engaged Learning; Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Elon University

“The perfect high-school graduation gift for anyone going to college. The book is replete with practical counsel on how to think critically and communicate well, wise guidance for learning in college and scores of helpful examples of that guidance applied to assignments that college students must handle. The sub-title says it all, The Essential Handbook for Student Success.”

Thomas Ehrlich

President Emeritus, Indiana University; Former Provost, The University of Pennsylvania

“This marvelous book is really three books in one. Its declared aim is to help students make their college years into more rewarding learning experiences. It also implicitly guides college professors on how to make their classes and assignments more supportive of real learning. And if you wish to grow intellectually after college, this book will help you learn how to make your informal learning more effective and rewarding.”

Michael McPherson

President Emeritus, Macalester College and The Spencer Foundation

Why hasn’t anyone ever told me this before? That poignant observation by one of Newman's students captures the superb power of this gracefully written book. Newman focuses on the disciplines that form the backbone of undergraduate education, how to think about them, study them and write about them. His insights will be invaluable both to students and to all who work to enhance their education.”

Lee S. Shulman

Charles E Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus, Stanford University President Emeritus, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

“Almost all colleges and universities claim to instill critical thinking skills, but all too rarely explain to students what this entails. Thinking Critically in College fills that yawning gap. Newman offers the wisest, most perceptive—and eminently practical—examination I know of what critical thinking is, why it matters, and how students can hone these skills. Institutions that take Newman’s smart guidance to heart, and whose faculty consciously focus on imparting his lessons, will admirably live up to their aspirations.”

Steven G. Poskanzer

President Emeritus, Carleton College

“Louis Newman addresses not only how to think critically in college, but why. Each chapter offers a lesson in metacognition, practical advice and concrete examples along with wisdom about the lifelong value of critical thinking. This approachable, conversational collection of strategies for college success employs a workbook format so students can practice lessons covered in the book. While the book addresses students, the tips and exercises it offers are also valuable for teachers aiming to help students become better learners.”

Mary-Ann Winkelmes

PhD, Founder/Director and Principal Investigator, Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

“A wonderful book that helps readers see that the questions often are more important than the answers. A joy to read, the work serves as a thorough resource on learning to think critically in college. But it is not simply about critical thinking in college. Most importantly, it helps readers foster skills of critique vital for living rich and rewarding lives.”

Andrew K. Koch

PhD, Chief Executive Officer, John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

About The Author

Louis E. Newman is the former Dean of Academic Advising and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. His responsibilities at Stanford included overseeing an extensive residential advising program, the pre-law and pre-med advising programs, transfer and co-term student advising, new student orientation programs, a summer bridge program, and the university's academic progress review system. At Stanford, he grew the advising program, promoted a holistic approach to academic advising, and advocated for liberal education.

He is also the John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies, Emeritus, at Carleton College, where he taught for thirty-three years. During his tenure at Carleton, he also served as an Associate Dean of the College, which included expanding the advisor training program and launching new programs to support advisors. He served for a term as Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, which sponsored weekly programs for faculty and staff on all aspects of pedagogy, academic policy, and trends in higher education. In this role he functioned as the informal mentor to the faculty at Carleton, which is consistently rated by US News & World Report as #1 for undergraduate teaching.

He is also an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Jewish ethics and has written and co-edited several books in that field, as well as dozens of articles. He was the first president of the Society of Jewish Ethics and the co-founder of its journal.

Louis Newman completed his B.A. in Hebrew and Philosophy and his M.A. in Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, and received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Brown University.

Throughout his career, hundreds of students and colleagues have attested to the profound impact he had on their learning and their lives&emdash;as a gifted teacher and as a trusted advisor and mentor.

This book provides the guidance students really need to succeed academically. Ideally suited to courses for college-bound high school and first-year college students, Thinking Critically in College is the go-to handbook for instructors and all those who support college student success. With its emphasis on developing critical thinking skills, the text also encourages students to look at their college experience broadly, as preparation for a lifetime of learning and civic engagement. Practical, accessible, comprehensive, and interactive–Thinking Critically in College is the resource you’ve always wanted to promote your students’ learning.

Louis Newman is available for consultations and Speaking Engagements

“Preparing Our Students to Succeed in College”

What academic skills do our students need to do college-level work?  (Hint:  doing well in high school probably isn’t sufficient.)  In this session, we introduce the key critical thinking skills students really need to become independent, lifelong learners.

“Help Them to ‘Step Up Their Game’ by Explaining What Game They’re Playing” 

Every assignment we give is an opportunity to help our students hone their critical thinking skills.  In this workshop, we’ll explore ways to make these skills more explicit in the way we craft assignments, so students can identify and internalize the competencies we expect them to master.

“The GPS System Every Student Needs to Navigate College”

For most of our students, college is unfamiliar, for many it is challenging, for some it is intimidating.  In this session, we’ll consider how to provide the conceptual roadmap students need to make sense of new subjects, new academic expectations, and new opportunities.

“How to Center Critical Thinking in Everything We Teach”    

Faculty want their students to think critically but may not know how to impart these skills through their assignments or their pedagogy.  In this session, we’ll identify the core components of critical thinking and explore how these can be woven into the structure of our courses, our assignments, and our feedback on student work.

 “Cultivating Metacognition in Our Students”

We all want our students to become better learners.  Here are some simple techniques to help them identify how they think, and how they can become more self-aware about their own learning processes.

“Why Our Students Can’t Think Critically, and What We Can Do About It”

Faculty complain that students don’t know how to analyze the material they assign, and students complain they don’t understand what faculty expect of them.  The solution to this longstanding impasse may be simpler than we imagine. 

“The Perennial Challenge of Higher Education:  Creating Critical Thinkers”

Our mission is to give students the critical thinking skills they need to complete their coursework and to become lifelong learners.  But if it were that simple, we’d be more successful at it than

studies suggest we are.  This talk addresses some strategies for centering critical thinking throughout the curriculum, and beyond.

“Critical Thinking—What it Means and Why it Matters”

Critical thinking has been defined in many different ways.  What skills are we actually trying to impart to our students and how can we ensure that they get them?  Our success as educators depends on getting this right.  And there is probably no time in our history as a nation when the stakes have been higher.

“Beyond Belonging:  Critical Thinking Skills as Key to Self-Esteem, Persistence, and Academic Success”

We know that our students need a sense of belonging to succeed in college.  But to really gain academic self-confidence they also need to understand specific critical thinking skills and practice using them.  Here is how to prepare them for the challenges ahead and give them the tools they will need to get academically engaged and stay the course.

 

“Learning How to Learn”:  The Most Important Course is the One You Will Never Take”

College is all about learning how to learn more effectively.  But most schools never specifically identify the strategies students need to do this.  This talk covers the essentials of metacognition and effective study strategies that every student needs to know before they can really tackle all the other work they need to do.

 

“Developing Relationships with Your Professors:  What Every Student Needs to Know”

Most students think college is all about completing the coursework and getting good grades.  But cultivating close relationships with faculty is the best way to get the most out of college and to build the connections that will lead to post-graduation opportunities.  Come learn how to engage effectively with your faculty and discover how many doors they can open for you.

"How to Think About College and Choose the One That's Right for You"

There are so many colleges to choose from and so many factors to weigh.  When I visit a campus, what should I focus on?  Should I pick the most prestigious place, or choose based on my intended major?  Does size matter?  Location?  With so much at stake, it's worth getting some advice from an "insider."  

"Thinking Critically in College:  What You Need to Know"

Most students discover that college is much harder academically than high school was.  You'll be asked to think in new and more sophisticated ways, which your professors may never explain

clearly.  No matter how well you have done until now, you may need to step up your game.  Come learn how you can prepare to "think like a college student." 

“Getting the Most Out of College:  The Values and Attitudes that Really Matter”

Succeeding in college is about more than grades, or smarts, or even great study skills.  If you want to take advantage of all that college has to offer, you need to develop certain mindsets and attitudes. Find out what they are and make sure you get your money’s worth out of college.

“Ready, Set, . . .Wait:  How to Know If You’re Really Prepared for College, and What to Do If You’re Not”

Timing is everything.  College might be the right path, but before you enroll, make sure you’re really prepared—academically, emotionally, psychologically and financially.  Come learn how to evaluate whether this is the right time, and what to do if you decide to postpone.

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