• Tue. Sep 26th, 2023

Book review: Letters to a New Student by Dr Gary W Wood

ByTeodora Aldea

Apr 5, 2019

Studying is a bit different for everyone – it might be fun, curiosity-driven, and inspiring, but it can also be daunting or stressful when it is wrapped up in deadlines and assignments.

Psychologist Dr Gary W. Wood has spent much of his career studying how people learn and teaching them how to do it better. The fruit of his work, Letters to a New Student, is a new book which aims to throw a lifeline to all new (or old) students and help them turn their weaknesses into strengths in order to become the best student they can be.

The book is written as a series of letters inspired from questions Dr Wood has got from his students through the years, to which he kindly replies using advice rooted in his psychology research. The letters are not only quick and fun to read, they are also informative and relatable.

For instance, to one letter which starts by asking “How can I stop beating myself up?” the answer is advice one can apply to most areas of one’s life – treat yourself with compassion when you fail and try to change your inner critic into an inner coach who will support you through your learning rather than berate you.

On the topic of stress, letters asking things such as ‘How can I stay calmer?’ or ‘Why do I have a love-hate relationship with stress?’ might strike a chord in most readers. Dr Wood’s responses to these focus on relaxation techniques, on managing time and small stressful tasks and on how pressure can be a motivator rather than a paralyzing force.

All the messages and answers inLetters to a New Student are placed into categories such as ‘attitudes,’ ‘wellbeing,’ ‘motivation,’ ‘emotions’ and ‘techniques,’ and cleverly structured in such a fashion that one can make their own way through the book, starting from whatever issue feels most urgent and directing the reading according to one’s needs and priorities. Moreover, each letter is followed by a response, a key take-home message, and a few references to overlaps with other parts of the book, making the reading experience more interactive.

Letters to a New Student has an answer to most questions and worries about studying: “Is my addictive personality getting in the way of my learning?”; “How can I clear my head and boost my mood?”; and, most importantly, “Should I be using highlighter pens?” Dr Wood also knows better than to just focus on the act of studying itself and dedicates a generous number of pages to the student’s general wellbeing and how this can impact one’s academic performance.

Moreover, Letters to a New Student is aimed not only at students themselves but also parents or relatives looking for ways to support their close ones. Informative and insightful, this is also a dynamic and entertaining read that is sure to keep all readers engaged.


Image credit: Garry Knight via Flickr

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