College guide offers solid advice with a light touch


College life overwhelmed Martin Spethman. Too many classes, too many parties, not enough studying.

So the Key Biscayne, Fla., resident put together his own $11 college survival guide, an MTV look at "real" college life and how to deal with it.

Mr. Spethman calls his 184-page book "How to Get Into and Graduate from College in Four Years with Good Grades, a Useful Major, a Lot of Knowledge, a Little Debt, Great Friends, Happy Parents, Maximum Party Attendance, Minimal Weight Gain, Decent Habits, Fewer Hassles, a Career Goal, and a Super Attitude, All While Remaining Extremely Cool!"

To Mr. Spethman, it's no joke. He sets out to show kids how they can do it all. He writes a lot about procrastination, organization and self-discipline.

The book is filled with pictures and illustrations by Ralph Cabrera, who draws comic strips for Marvel.

Mr. Spethman, 29, offers no magic formulas. His advice is solid, but it will work only if kids are willing to use some self-discipline. Mr. Spethman tries to make his points by writing to kids, not at them, using their language and his humor.

In the introduction, he uses a 42-item checklist so kids can decide what worries them most about heading to college. The list includes:

"Being able to stand four more years of school; Being able to stand four more days of school; Being able to stand four more words of this book; Will there be enough parties? Getting a roommate who is a 'Surf Nazi'; Becoming a 'Surf Nazi'; Becoming a 'Surf Naziette'; I have no concerns, I am one with the universe."

For the guide, Mr. Spethman drew ideas from his own experiences at Carroll College in Montana -- where he got a business degree -- and from 400 surveys he sent to high schools across the country.

The first six chapters are dedicated to getting ready and getting into college. Mr. Spethman offers a chart so kids can tally up their classes and credits. Another chart helps kids figure out what classes each potential college requires. More simple charts will help kids decide which college to attend and how they can pay for it.

Most of his advice is woven into the comic strip adventures of two couples. The annoying "perfect" pair, Steve and Celeste, work, study and exercise while holding down a straight "A" average. The other couple, Kippy and Kelmar, are lethargic couch potatoes who major in beer drinking and pizza consumption. Mr. Spethman figures most kids fall somewhere in between.

The remaining 16 chapters are devoted to life in college. Mr. Spethman hammers away at his main themes: get organized, get some exercise and get busy.

When it comes to academics, Mr. Spethman believes college kids should get their money's worth. That means going to class. He writes:

"The most important thing is to sit somewhere in the classroom during class."

But he doesn't mince words about what a pain some classes can be.

Mr. Spethman acknowledges two other facts of college life: partying and sex. He advises students to attend only "Quality Leisure Time" parties, drink in moderation and not to drink on an empty stomach.

As for sex, he advocates abstinence. But he knows the hormonal lure is often too great, so he adds:

"The decision to practice safe sex is a lot easier than the decision to have a child, an abortion, get married or not, put a child up for adoption, select an AIDS treatment, etc."

Mr. Spethman's book, which sells for $10.95, is available at larger bookstores such as B. Dalton and Borders Book Shops. It is offered at a discount to high schools wishing to purchase it in bulk.

For more information about the book, call (305) 361-6862 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays.

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