Andrea Brenner & Lara Schwartz
Co-Authors of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You're There)

Co-authors of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There), Andrea Malkin Brenner, Ph.D. and Lara Hope Schwartz work to inform first year students how to better transition into their first semester at college. Their book discusses the expectations one should have at college while immersing themselves into the community and their academics.


Andrea Malkin Brenner, PhD is a sociologist who consults with colleges that wish to create their own first-year transitions courses. She served as a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at American University for over twenty yearsShe created the nationally-recognized American University Experience (AUx) Program, now a mandatory full-year course that serves as a college transition course (fall semester) and a cross-cultural communication class focused on race, inclusion, and discourse across difference (spring semester). Dr. Brenner designed the curriculum, trained the faculty, and served as the program’s director. In this role, she represented the Office of Undergraduate Education at American University, speaking about the award-winning first-year experience program at local and national conferences.


Lara Schwartz teaches at American University School of Public Affairs, where she founded and directs the Project on Civil Discourse. She specializes in civil discourse and campus speech, constitutional law, civil rights, politics, communications, and policy. Drawing on her extensive experience as a legislative lawyer, lobbyist, and communications strategist in leading civil rights organizations, Lara brings an advocate’s-eye view to her work as she emphasizes collaborative learning and universal design in her teaching. She has been honored with a School of Public Affairs teaching award and serves as a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning.


Andrea and Lara have been recently named to the 2019-2020 class of fellows at the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.

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How to CollegeWhat to Know Before You Go (and When You Get There)
St. Martin's Griffin

How to College is here to help. Professors Andrea Malkin Brenner and Lara Schwartz guide first-year students and their families through the transition process, during the summer after high school graduation and throughout the school year, preparing students to succeed and thrive as they transition and adapt to college. The book draws on the authors’ experience teaching, writing curricula, and designing programs for thousands of first-year college students over decades.

How to College: Preparing and Supporting Our Rising First-Year Students The transition from high school and home to campus can be stressful, and students often arrive unprepared for the realities of college. Students know that college living and learning is different from high school, but what does that really mean? In this workshop, the authors of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There) will demystify the transition process for high school seniors and their parent(s) including topics such as academic standards; health and wellness; personal safety; and interacting with new peers. Participants will be engaged in interactive exercises to help both parties prepare for this important life transition.
Supporting the Thinking and Learning of First-Year College Students An interactive presentation with professors Andrea Malkin Brenner and Lara Hope Schwartz, authors of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There). The authors draw on their expertise teaching, writing curricula and designing programs for thousands of first-year college students over decades. Topics for selection include: innovative teaching exercises geared toward the developmental levels of first-years; building inclusive classroom environments; designing first-year curricula with universal design; and cross-cultural communication/civil discourse in the classroom.

The Huffington Post featured Andrea and Lara’s How to College.

Andrea Brenner and Lara Schwartz co-authored the article on The Conversation to discuss how parents can help their first year students.

WAMU reports on Andrea Brenner’s bringing her Diversity Course to American University.

Lara Schwartz is profiled on The Conversation for her expertise in civil discourse.

Andrea Brenner discusses how she plans to implement her new Diversity and Inclusion Plan at American University.

Salon profiled Lara Schwartz.

Kirkus reviews Andrea and Lara’s book How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You Get There).

"This comprehensive guide offers invaluable advice to college-bound students...Anyone planning to attend college will find this practical guide useful."
- Booklist

"How to College is the best college prep guide I've ever encountered, equally strong in both breadth and depth. For breadth, the book covers every relevant topic I could have imagined for such a guide, and many that I honestly would never have thought of; all will be very helpful for rising college students and their families alike. And for depth, to cite just one example with which I'm very familiar, the section on college writing is stronger than many entire books dedicated to that subject, and would be a vital aid for students entering first-year writing classes."
- Ben Railton, PhF Professor of English Studies, Fitchburg State University

"How to College is a must read…This book goes beyond how to achieve academic success! It focuses on how to thrive throughout the whole college experience; managing finances, self-care, and being engaged."
- Lynn M. Roeder, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students, East Carolina University

"How to College builds a critical foundation for how to adult. Beyond its academic success models, this exemplar resource embeds core tenets that teach our students how to become productive, contributing, and compassionate adults."
- Jennifer Fish, Professor & Chair, Women's Studies, Old Dominion University

"Relevant, timely, and insightful. A modern guide to all the things you didn’t know to ask about before going to college. With advice about tackling course readings, meeting your new roommate, and making the most of online apps to support your success, this book is a great primer for any high school graduate heading off to college!"
- Rachel E. Aho, M.S., Associate Director of Housing, University of Utah