Her Campus is an online magazine aimed at college-age American women, and if you haven’t already heard of it, then YOU SHOULD CHECK IT OUT. I love Her Campus… I don’t remember exactly when I started reading their posts, but I think it was sometime this spring? And doing so made me much less anxious about heading off to college this fall.
The magazine posts a mix of both serious and “fluff” articles, and I love their chatty, informal writing style, and I love that they have an entire section of posts aimed specifically at LGBTQ+ women. I’ve actually been thinking about applying to write for Her Campus, Her Campus Iowa, or the Her Campus Blogger Network!
So when I heard that Her Campus was publishing an actual BOOK filled with advice about college-ing, of course I wanted to read it!
BUT. I am honestly so conflicted about this guide. Some parts were really, really helpful, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but other parts were… yeah, not so great.
The book is split into five sections, like so.
- Part 1: Staying Safe in College
- Part 2: Staying Healthy on Campus
- Part 3: Developing Smart and Successful Relationships
- Part 4: Building a Balanced Social Life
- Part 5: Managing Your Money and Career
For this review, I’m going to go chapter by chapter and point out things that stood out to me as particularly helpful OR unhelpful. At the end of this review, I’m going to summarize my thoughts on The Her Campus Guide to College Life and then list a few things that I think would’ve improved this book immensely.
Chapter 1: Dorm Safety
There isn’t really much to say about this chapter, because it covered some pretty basic information, but… I am continually amazed by the number of people on my floor who DON’T lock their doors. I lock mine even if I’m just going to the bathroom or to my friends’ room just down the hall! Little things like this go a long way, because I don’t want someone to steal my laptop. Or my camera. Or my phone. ET CETERA.
BASICALLY THE PEOPLE ON MY FLOOR SHOULD READ THIS CHAPTER.
Chapter 2: Safety Around Campus
Some parts of this chapter were relevant to my life, and some weren’t: I don’t ever plan on going to a party here at college (at least, not the kind where they serve alcohol), but I do sometimes have to walk home by myself late at night.
One of their tips involved downloading an app – there are multiple versions – that sends a message to selected friends letting them know where you are, in case you have to walk home alone at night. So I did! I’ve used that just once so far, but I will probably end up using it much, much more.
Chapter 3: Sexual Assault
Mostly helpful information here, especially the bit about the prevalence of acquaintance rape vs. stranger rape, but there was one oddly-phrased sentence that rubbed me the wrong way: “However, by not reporting your assault, you are perpetuating the crime.”
UM. NO. Rape victims don’t perpetuate crime; rapists do. Speaking up about your assault may be one of the best choices you ever make, but there are all kinds of reasons why someone may not feel comfortable doing so – or doing so right now. I don’t know, that sentence was just… meh.
Chapter 4: Studying Abroad
As someone who wants to study abroad someday, this chapter was incredibly helpful! I hadn’t even thought about student visas, changing currency, making sure all my vaccinations are up to date, and buying an adapter/converter to charge my electronic devices.
The only thing I didn’t understand was why this chapter was included in the safety section, when very little of this chapter dealt with safety! I would’ve included it in section 4, but I guess that’s just me.
Chapter 5: Nutrition, Fitness, and Eating Disorders
I definitely needed the list titled “healthy foods to keep in your dorm room,” and everything about making sure to work out while on campus was very motivating because I… don’t do that as often as I should. EURGH.
Chapter 6: Physical Health
I’ve begun to implement some of their advice about getting enough sleep – it took me a long time to realize that just because I can stay up until one in the morning (or later!) every night doesn’t mean I should!
Also, there was a list of medicine that you should have in your dorm room and it made me realize that, at the very least, it is probably a good idea to have decongestants and cough medicine.
Chapter 7: Drinking, Smoking, and Drugs
I read this chapter for the sole purpose of being able to help any of my friends if they have problems with this stuff. (I absolutely will not smoke or do drugs because I like to smell nice and be in control of my own brain, and I think alcohol tastes gross, so…) It wasn’t anything I didn’t already know from health class in high school, but I suppose it bears repeating since so many students do struggle with these things upon entering college.
Chapter 8: Mental Health
I’ve never been homesick here (surprisingly), but including suggestions about how to combat it was a very good idea. Also, yay for tips about stress! I already do some of what they suggested – make to-do lists, take a walk to clear your head – but seeing it here validated my decisions.
Chapter 9: Sexual Health
UGH. HETERONORMATIVITY, WHY. Her Campus is a really inclusive website, so it surprised me to see that this chapter just assumed that everyone has heterosexual sex. Like, it didn’t address queer safe sex? At all? I’m tired of people being like “we’re going to be PROGRESSIVE and be very frank about the need for teenagers to have safe sex!” and then they forget that LGBTQ+ teens exist.
Chapter 10: Roommates
This section was SUPER helpful because it had advice for what to do when your roommate is getting on your nerves – keeping odd hours, always having friends over, using your stuff without asking, et cetera. Also, it had a sample “roommate contract” form. I had to fill one of these out, but if your school doesn’t require one, you should consider it anyway.
(A roommate contract basically establishes stuff like when lights out is, how much noise is allowed when one or both of you are studying, what temperature the room should be at, et cetera. Little things, but it’s worth getting it all down on paper before conflicts arise.)
Chapter 11: Professors, RAs, and TAs
I actually used the advice in this chapter to help me figure out how to ask my professor to explain what I could’ve done better in an essay that received a grade of 78%! (And then my next essay for that class got 100%, so I guess asking questions really paid off…)
Chapter 12: Dating, Relationships, and Hooking Up
Another chapter, another heteronormative mess. The advice given here isn’t bad – it’s universal to any relationship, regardless of the gender(s) of the people in that relationship – but the authors kept saying “he” and assuming we were all into “man candy” and I just… no. WTF IS MAN CANDY WHY WOULD ANYONE EVEN SAY THAT IT’S JUST WEIRD.
Chapter 13: Unhealthy Relationships
There was a lot of heteronormativity in the first half of this chapter, as it dealt with unhealthy romantic relationship. EURGH. The second half was about toxic friendships and how to recognize them, though, so at least that was more helpful?
Chapter 14: Extracurriculars
I appreciated the part about getting involved in campus media – I’ve been meaning to do that because A) I’m interested in that kind of thing and B) I need stuff to list on my resume. In this chapter, Her Campus also recommended Ed2010, which I hadn’t heard of before. It’s a national organization for aspiring magazine editors! I could see myself having that sort of job someday – honestly, I just want to write ALL OF THE THINGS and I’m not super picky about possible jobs as long as I get to write for a living.
Chapter 15: Greek Life
Again, another chapter that isn’t relevant to me, but I read it anyway because I would feel bad about rating and reviewing this book without having read all of it. I thought the bit about what to do if your sorority is hazing you was particularly important.
Chapter 16: Juggling Social Life and Academics
My three favorite things from this chapter: How to manage your time wisely, how to know if you should drop a class, and how to ask for an extension.
Chapter 17: Social Media Dos and Don’ts
I have extremely mixed feelings about this chapter. On the one hand, I thought the advice about how LinkedIn works and how to use other forms of social media to help you land a job were helpful.
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure we all know not to list too much personal information on our social media profiles! I wanted more information about using social media to find jobs, and less about “how to be safe on the Internet.” We all got that lecture back in middle school, thank you very much.
Chapter 18: Managing Your Money
Financial aid! Scholarships! Work-study! Balancing your budget! AHHH ADULTING IS TERRIFYING. Thankfully, this chapter made it seem a little less so.
Chapter 19: Landing Jobs and Internships
Not much here that I didn’t already know, but INTERNSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT so I’m glad this chapter was included.
I have a lot of thoughts about The Her Campus Guide to College Life, and some of them are positive. Some of them are not. I wanted all of my feelings about this book to be positive, because I love Her Campus (the website).
There WAS quite a lot of helpful info, and I love love love the informal writing style, and I really liked the checklists and “wellness check-ins” at the end of each chapter. Also, I think a lot of this information would be helpful no matter where you went to school – some of it was definitely US-specific, but stuff like how to avoid homesickness is universal. Also, as someone who has been in college for a few months now, I can confidently say that much of the advice offered in this guide is very practical – as you can see, I’ve already used some of their tips in my own college life!
At the same time, though, there were several chapters that just… didn’t seem necessary? Some of the information was very basic (“stick to the buddy system when you’re at a party or out drinking”), and I felt that those pages could have been used to expand upon other things, such as how social media can be used to get jobs and internships!
This guide was also incredibly heteronormative, which just didn’t jibe with the overall feeling from the actual Her Campus website. There were maybe two or three references to dating girls, but in a very vague sense – it didn’t seem like the writers cared enough about LGBTQ+ women to actually include stuff that would be helpful to them, such as a section about queer safe sex.
…honestly, I would’ve liked to see an entire chapter aimed at queer women! For many of us, college is when we figure out our sexual orientation and/or gender identity, date girls for the first time, et cetera. Also, some LGBTQ+ women who are sure of their queer identity prior to college cannot be out to their family and friends back home, so college is where they can finally be out.
I would’ve liked to see information about on-campus LGBTQ+ resource centers, queer safe sex + relationship advice, queer-friendly housing, majoring (or minoring) in subjects related to gender and sexuality, joining LGBTQ+ student groups, queer-friendly sororities, et cetera.
Maybe I should write a post about that! Sort of like a “missing chapter” from this book, where I supplement with everything I’ve learned about resources for LGBTQ+ students since I arrived on campus back in August.
But I digress.
I would recommend The Her Campus Guide to Campus Life, but with definite caveats. If you’re anxious about starting college – or even if you’re already there, and just feel that you could use all the help you can get – then I recommend taking a look at this guide. However, I do feel that this book wasn’t as inclusive as the Her Campus website, which confused and disappointed me.