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The First Year Out by Tim Clydesdale

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” –James Arthur Baldwin

It has been a while since I was a freshman in college, but I can still feel that sense of being lost, overwhelmed, and utterly confused. Entering college my goal was to finish school, graduate, and start my “life” as soon as possible. I isolated myself emotionally, stalling any authentic development because I was simply too afraid to see my worldview bubble burst. Instead of thriving, I was purely focused on surviving.

The First Year Out by Tim Clydesdale is a quick snapshot of a teenager’s first year into higher education. Clydesdale follows the lives of over fifty students, starting with them while they finish high school and following up with them after their first year into the college world.

Though society typically portrays college students as reckless party people interested only in drugs, alcohol, and sex, Clydesdale paints for us a more realistic, subdued freshmen class. In their first year out, students are looking for one big thing: daily life management. With so many changes happening within only a few months, students are simply looking for a way to adjust and cope quickly with unavoidable challenges ahead.

Clearly, some turn to unhealthy methods such as drugs and alcohol while some manage the challenges quite successfully. However most, according to Clydesdale, create a “lockbox” for their identity which includes religious/spiritual, ethical, political, and intellectual worldviews as a way to survive while they deal with daily life management. Most college students do not approach these developments until later into their college experience.

All in all, I think is a great book. I grew a little weary every time Clydesdale had to describe an interviewee. It seemed like every other sentence he was telling me the gender, race, and socioeconomic class of a student, which is important information but it does not make for smooth reading.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the freshmen year experience.