Smarter Than You Think: Accessing Your Personal Powers to Triumph in College

by Suzanne Liff


Book Details

It’s not about IQ! Pump up your personal intelligence to score in college.

Millions of students start college each year. Yet only about half persist to earn their degree. Even among the “best and brightest” many struggle, drop out, fail, or step away. What’s going on? How can this be difffernt for you?

Smarter Than You Think: Accessing Your Personal Powers to Triumph in College reframes our concept of what it means to be smart in higher education. Take a groundbreaking and transformative journey with Professor Liff through the hidden foundation of college success; not IQ or achievement scores, high school grades or SAT's...but personal intelligence. See its pervasive power to lift students up and escort them right on to the graduation stage. You'll enjoy your travels!

Crafted for new and returning college students, college-bound high schoolers, non-traditional students coming back to college after a break, and parents, professors, and counselors, this book is both a prerequisite and companion for a positive pathway to college success.

Discover the many ways to be intelligent. Then delve into the six major competencies that make up our personal, social and emotional intelligence: self-awareness, the capacity to regulate emotions and deal with disappointment and stress, the ability to set meaningful goals, knowing how to monitor your own progress and actions, having empathy for others, and social skills that help establish relationships, work well on a team, and even step up to leadership. 

Experience how these personal powers  support, guide, and even rescue students during the myriad of changes and challenges of college life. Grow them. Strengthen them. You will be amazed at how they champion academic performance, well-being, and happiness throughout the college years and beyond.

An engaging, independent read, Smarter Than You Think: Accessing Your Personal Powers to Triumph in College also works beautifully as an ancillary text for freshman college experience courses or university orientation programs.

In an encouraging and  supportive voice, it weaves scholarly theory and research with compelling college issues and scenarios, true campus stories, insights and concrete action steps to guide students through their college journey. Along the way, readers explore related and valuable personal qualities for thriving in college:

  • Know the importance of optimism. 
  • Understand why delaying gratification is so vital for any student who wants to graduate.
  • Learn about grit and how to keep going when you feel like quitting.
  • Explore productive ways to communicate your needs and advocate for yourself.
  • Take valuable risks, like joining in, speaking out, finding your voice, and taking charge!
  • Develop tools to resolve conflicts with others and inside yourself.
  • Discover a remarkable potion for ditching procrastination.
  • Adopt strategies to manage time and the academic workload; the number one challenge for every undergraduate.
  • Always take time to think about yourself. Reflect on your learning, experiences, and your own behavior. There are many opportunities throughout the chapters of this book to do that.

Collegiate success transcends academics. Read Smarter Than You Think to understand, unlock, and apply your personal powers. They will transform your life and times in school to persevere, achieve, flourish, enjoy ... and triumph!  


Book Excerpt

Where This Book Takes You

I can’t wait for you to know, and deeply understand, the

message of this book. Most students head to college

totally without it. You won’t be one of them.

Your success in college is not just about your academic

skills and strengths. Nope, it’s not about how great

you read, how well you do math, or if your IQ is off the


A large part of how you do in school, the outcomes you

achieve and the experiences you take away, are dependent

upon qualities in you that probably have never

been tested, scored, or given a grade. Yet they have

always been operative in your educational life, and will

continue to be.

In the coming pages, you will learn that there are many

ways to be smart. Some reflect your intelligence and

cognitive abilities. Others include your athletic, musical,

or even spiritual capacities. But the most encompassing

ones, shadowing you wherever you go, are


not measured on achievement tests, writing samples,

or at auditions.

They are your personal capacities; those that constitute

what are sometimes called your personal intelligences.

These include truly knowing yourself and your

needs, being able to soothe your moods, adjust your

reactions, set and pursue your goals, know how you

are doing, hang on when you feel like quitting, and connect

positively with others.

You likely have no idea how relevant these personal

abilities are to your academic success and your happiness

throughout your college years. They are supremely

powerful. They can help you become the “smartest”

person in the room, whether or not you get straight A’s

or have the highest IQ.

Even if you typically do well academically, learning about

and nurturing your personal competencies will have a

great impact on how you experience college. Recognizing

and strengthening these abilities can enhance your

enjoyment of classes, help you deal with the pressures

to get good grades, enrich the way you socialize and

form relationships, and generally improve your well being

and contentment during your time in school.

The measures that make up your IQ are generally stable

throughout your life. You are born “that way.” The


components of your personal intelligence, often known

as your emotional intelligence (EQ) or social and emotional

intelligence (SEI), evolve over your lifetime. You

are not yet the best you can be. You are still growing!

And you can leverage that process.

Get ready to discover, develop and strengthen the

amazing components of your social and emotional self.

You will learn how they improve almost every aspect of

your college life, from managing the work load to relating

to your professors, completing your assignments

on time, studying in ways that work, enriching how you

socialize and forge relationships, and dealing with missteps

or even occasional failures that are part of the

college experience.

Focus directly on yourself as you read this book. Stop

and consider how the ideas relate to you personally.

They all do.

Let’s take this important and transformative journey together.

Find out all about your personal powers and

how to access them to triumph in college. And yes, you

will discover that you have the capacity to be smarter

than you think!


About the Author

Suzanne Liff

SUZANNE LIFF is Emeritus Professor of reading at Nassau Community College, and a former teacher and district chairperson of secondary special education in NY. A leader in professional development, she presents extensively on best pedagogical practices and the significance of SEI on teaching and learning. She is published in professional juried journals and author of three groundbreaking developmental reading textbooks for college students. Professor Liff is the recipient of an honorary life membership to the Special Education PTA, the Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award for Outstanding Scholarly and Professional Accomplishment, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Learn more at