A Smart Book for College Students

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If a student isn’t tired of textbooks and wants to do a little side reading, there is a new book out that could impact his/her future. What the Best College Students Do by Ken Bain opens up a new perspective on how students can get the most out of their education. We won’t give the whole book away, but there are some great points we want to provide as a preview.


You can study something that people tell you is “good” or you can pursue a degree in something that actually matters to you. Bain suggests the second option, and gives a great example from Asian American studies professor, Eliza Noh. She told him, “It really opened my eyes. For the first time in my life, I realized that learning could be about me and my interests, about who I was.” This type of connection to your education not only helps you excel in school, but can also help lead you to a career you will enjoy for years to come.

Ask Questions

Bain takes special time to note that some of the best discoveries come when there is “no simple answer.” He goes on to back this point up by talking about engineer, Jeff Hawkins. If you haven’t heard about him, he drove himself by centering his studies on four questions.

  1. Why does anything exist?
  2. Given that a universe does exist, why do we have the particular laws of physics that we do?
  3. Why do we have life, and what is its nature?
  4. Given that life exists, what’s the nature of intelligence?

These questions clearly have no simple answer, but they helped lead Hawkins to inventing the first mobile computing device, a palm pilot. So asking the hard questions can help push you to new levels.

Take Action

Oftentimes, people simply wish for something to be different, but Bain shows how action can create change. He discusses how Joel Feinman, a lawyer for the underprivileged, started on the path to his career by studying a topic that made him wish for difference – the Massacre at El Mazote. The topic helped him put on a play about the topic as well as travel to El Salvador to learn about it. It was the action that he took that made him decide he wanted “to do something to help people and bring a little justice to the world.”

Make it a Passion

An A+ feels great, but learning the materials and applying them to real life will feel much better in the long run. Bain shows this by talking to one of the great minds in science, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson states, “No one ever asks you what your grades were. Grades become irrelevant… ambition and innovation trump grades every time.” Clearly, you will still need to pass your classes to earn a degree, but don’t let grades distract you from actually learning what the material is about.

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This brief article is just a preview of everything Ken Bain’s book offers. If you want to make the most out of your education, this book might be a good read.


Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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