Stuff You Need to Know for University is the perfect guide for any student. Primarily aimed
at those who are new to the student lifestyle, the book is informative and easy on the eye.
Written by Camberwell College lecturer Richard Osborne and graduates Mary and John Reid,
the book provides an insider’s knowledge. And as they have all experienced the stresses first
hand, they are able to provide a unique insight in a subject area which can be frightening for
those who are often leaving their parents and going it alone for the first time.
From the offset the cover draws the reader in and suggests that this may not be your usual
‘how to survive university’ guide. The laid back design is its most appealing factor. By relying
a lot on the illustrations, the book doesn’t appear text heavy and overwhelming.
But a pretty design isn’t the only selling point. The book starts off with a set of 10
commandments for students to live by, and the range of topics that follow are extensive.
It covers everything from basic university essentials such as how to write an essay and
planning ahead to achieve the best grade you can, to basic life essentials such as how to
keep your belongings safe and more importantly how to keep yourself safe.
It also contains need to know information on various subject areas such as literature, drama
and history, where it provides you with yet again a visually appealing list of important people
you should know in each area.
Stuff You Need to Know for University should be on any fresher’s list. Although not all the
information provided is applicable to all students, this guide could be the vital lifeline in the big
jump from A-levels to a degree.
by Dominique Major
The people at Zidane Press have sent me a copy of their book, Stuff You Need To Know For University for review. I expected a book much like Lucy Tobin’s A Guide To Uni Life and other books preparing students for their study.
Stuff You Need To Know For University isn’t quite like that. It takes its own place.
Many books in this vein either prepare students for university life, or look at study skills. While the authors cover this at the start of the text, the main bulk takes a different approach. First things first, though, the book begins with a summary for everything required to enjoy university and excel in your essays. It’s almost worryingly brief.
But ‘brief’ isn’t the right word and doesn’t do it justice. Think more ‘to the point’. You’re expected to put the work in. What this book doesn’t offer is a magic pill. And I like that. The purpose of this book is to expand your horizons and get you thinking clearly about your degree AND beyond your degree.
The first three pages contain the ’10 Commandments’ for how to do well at uni, starting with “Treat it like a job” and ending with “Enjoy yourself”. There is no mystery. The process isn’t complex. It assumes you will take responsibility for your learning. Some of the opinions within the commandments are a bit sarcastic, but that doesn’t mean the advice is a joke.
Next up, you’re given a short overview of health issues, Freshers’ Week, writing and grades. Just enough to take into account and not too much to make you bored or overwhelmed. You may want to explore in more detail at a later point, but when you’re given so much to take in as a Fresher, this type of overview is useful.
And if you’re looking for more detail on what happens when you first hit campus, take a read of my free ebooks on Fresher Success and Studying Hard.
Past the summary, the rest of Stuff You Need To Know… is part Bluffer’s Guide and part introduction to the wealth of information and scholarly output you’re due to encounter on your academic journeys. Not all of it is relevant to your course, but don’t let that stop you exploring. This book is an easy-going introduction to many ideas and it is up to you to take things further. You can pick and choose what interests you, as well as pick up the book from time to time when you need some inspiration.
The authors even suggest that “you can just take the ‘how to write essays’ bit and disperse of the rest”. Yet, in many ways, that would be missing the point and you wouldn’t be making the most of the book.
The authors cover the humanities, literature, drama, history, politics, economics, science, globalization, art, and music. And tucked away between the art and music chapters (I don’t know why it’s specifically placed there) is a selection of ‘Top Ten’ lists. From safety to theories, from food to films, the authors suggest what they think is best.
What’s refreshing about Stuff You Need To Know… is how it brings you the basics to allow you to step off from and take further in any way you fancy.
Some readers may consider its open-ended nature to be its flaw, but it’s a personal decision. If you’re interested in grabbing the fundamental points and grounding yourself, this book does that job just fine.
The bottom line is this: buy the book if you want a useful place to dip your toes in and get the basics covered. Then explore!
If you’re more interested in a thousand different suggestions on preparing research, exam techniques, and the finer details of essay construction, look elsewhere.
I’ve never seen a uni book quite like this before. I enjoyed its quirky layout and concise nature. Stuff You Need To Know For University is a worthwhile and undemanding read.
And because the book won’t take you long to consume, you’ll have plenty time to follow those ten commandments set for you!