A Student's Guide to Your First Year of College

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
A Student's Guide to Your First Year of College TV Poster Image
Relatable, well-rounded series tackles college prep topics.

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Positive Messages

Strong themes of perseverance and self-control emerge from lessons explicitly taught to students, like differentiating between necessities and luxuries and learning to indulge only in luxuries you can afford while making sure you have enough money to pay for necessities. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Michelle Obama is relatable, intelligent in the speech she gives to students that's excerpted in each episode of the show, mining her own life for instructive examples -- e.g., when she explains that moving into the White House was easier than it might have been because throughout her life, she'd learned to make transitions and didn't "quit when it felt hard." Other participants candidly reveal times when they were successful or unsuccessful with challenges, providing real-life examples. Most interviewees, students and professionals alike, are people of color. 

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Student's Guide to Your First Year of College is a series of short lessons that guides graduating seniors through the finer points of leaving home for college. Short interviews with experts including former First Lady Michelle Obama take issues students face seriously, and treat their problems and solutions with respect. Interviewees often illustrate points with examples from their own lives. Lessons center around themes of perseverance and self-control, traits students are expected to learn over time in college along with subject matter. Many experts and students interviewed are people of color, and several mention they are the first person in their family to attend college. 

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What's the story?

With frank and common sense advice from former First Lady Michelle Obama and other experts, A STUDENT'S GUIDE TO YOUR FIRST YEAR OF COLLEGE helps prepare graduating seniors for a variety of issues they'll face at university, from making friends to navigating financial aid to living on their own for the first time. The 10-episode crash course is hosted by CC Allen (Howard University Class of 2012), and features interviews with experts from a wide variety of disciplines, as well as guidance and personal anecdotes from fellow students. 

Is it any good?

Students are in good hands with this YouTube series that walks them gently through leaving home and thriving at college. Michelle Obama, whose advice is mostly culled from a long talk she gave an audience of students that's excerpted throughout the episodes, proves to be a terrifically empathetic knowledge-dropper, who obviously remembers her own college days well. "When my dad dropped me off at college," she says in voice-over as photos of her as a grade schooler and then a graduate fill the screen, "I was excited, but I was also scared and overwhelmed." Sounds about right. 

Along with Michelle Obama's advice, other experts offer their take on college's finer points: the difference between what tuition costs vs. how much it costs to actually support yourself while going to school, what things parents might have done for students that students will now find themselves doing alone (waking up in the morning and laundry figures largely into discussion). Throughout A Student's Guide to Your First Year of College, students are assured that they can do it: "These spots are coveted," Ms. Obama says about students who are accepted to college. "They didn't make a mistake." 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the need for such a series. Are these types of skills taught in high school? At home? Did you learn anything from watching? Will you use anything later? 

  • The trailer and press for this series heavily emphasizes Michelle Obama's participation. Why? What's the expertise or experience that makes her a person students should listen to? What type of person is she aiming her advice toward? How can you tell? 

  • How does the advice given in A Student's Guide to Your First Year of College encourage students to show self-control and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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For kids who love college prep

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