UMass Dartmouth’s residential staff debuts the ultimate guide to navigating college

by Arpeni Mael, Editor-In-Chief

It’s not everyday when two colleagues get together to write a book about how to get the most out of college.

But LaToya Robertson, Resident Director of Cedar Dell West, and Imad Jbara, Resident Assistant of Aspen and Ivy, of UMass Dartmouth did just that.

What started off as a joke to work together last August turned into writing a book about maximizing on the college experience so that students can achieve the ultimate goal: obtaining employment.

“It’s a book that teaches you how to succeed in college socially and academically,” said Robertson. “The College Cheat Sheet is the ultimate guide to navigating and maximizing college.”

The College Cheat Sheet is written in a step by step  guide with a side of humor that  is both relatable and easy to read. It includes anecdotes from Robertson’s and Jbara’s college experiences, and advice based on research about various professors and college students from UMass Dartmouth.

Through its 28 chapters, readers will learn everything they need to know to get the most out of college, from study habits to help boost your GPA to an inside look at what professor’s think students should do to get the most out of the classroom. Robertson’s music company, DCL Studios, will publish the book on November 4, the same day Robertson gives a TED Talk in New Bedford, which discusses her experience of pursuing her educational goals, overcoming adversity, and finding happiness. She’ll sign copies of the book after her talk.

“Students that go to college invest tons of money into it but then they don’t get a job, or they don’t get an internship or don’t go to grad school,” said Robertson. “Most of the time it’s that they get the training in the specific discipline but they don’t get the tools to apply that to whatever is  their main goal is.”

Both Robertson and Jbara found this lack of connection between classroom learning and the job market to be a big issue. “Students can’t sell themselves to employers,” said Jbara. Robertson, like many others at UMass Dartmouth, is a first generation college student.

“[My parents] couldn’t give me any guidance. I didn’t know who to ask, I didn’t even know I needed to ask certain things,” she said

For her, this book is about her college experience and the challenges that she faced as well, something students today still face. Whether that be how to go about applying for a loan, or marketing yourself for the right job. “It’s a cheat sheet, you may need some of it or you may need all of it.”

Robertson’s role in the book is that she puts her own experience into it from her days as an undergraduate student. “I messed up in a lot of different ways as a student. It took me six years to graduate,” she said. “I wish this book had been out there when I was a student.”

When Jbara visited the college fair last semester that UMass Dartmouth holds, he realized that this book could be very successful. “I went to interview employers, I approached one and I shook his hand. The employer looked at me and said, ‘Wow, I’m very impressed.’” Jbara remembers being confused. “I asked him, what are you talking about? He said that was a nice firm handshake and you looked me right in the eye.”

Isn’t it common sense that you should shake someone’s hand out of respect? “If students don’t know that going into college, then there’s no way that they can get a job in a professional sense,” he said. Chapter 13: How to Meet People discusses how students should present   themselves when meeting future employers. Something as simple as a firm handshake goes a long way.

“So the good thing about this book is that it technically isn’t written by us. We interviewed professors, students, and the former chancellor. Based on what they said is what we used to create the book.”

What exactly do they want their readers to  take away from  The College Cheat Sheet? “Results may vary,” jokes Robertson.

The book is $14.99 and is available at the Ted x Talk on November 4.

It can also be purchased online.

Photo Courtesy: LaToya Rene Robertson


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