A father’s advice on college success

William Middleton and Leslie Gordon hope that their book will be an inspiration for all parents.
William Middleton and Leslie Gordon hope that their book will be an inspiration for all parents.

As he packed his younger son Andrew off to his first semester at college, Bill Middleton felt the anxiety and apprehension that many parents do. His solution was two index cards printed with Middleton’s 12 pieces of advice for his son — one framed and ready to display, and another laminated so that Andrew could tuck it away in his wallet.

Middleton’s advice is now part of a book of inspiring stories from black fathers — including boldface names like Russell Simmons and Allan Houston — that he co-authored with Leslie Gordon. Middleton hopes that the book, “Dare to be Extraordinary: A Collection of Positive Life Lessons from African American Fathers” will help parents of all communities (and genders).

Middleton is happy to report that Andrew heeded his advice, and has graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in American Public Policy. Here are some of the tips Middleton gave for Andrew’s first semester:

  • People (i.e., professors, staff members, friends, etc.) will be more willing to help you if you demonstrate to them that you truly care and want to succeed.
  • A commitment to excellence is the shortest distant to success. Never shortchange or shortcut an assignment or activity. Always give things your very best.
  • When you experience failure — and you will, as we all have — don’t let it devastate you. Rather, have it motivate you to work harder and smarter, and to persevere.
  • Use your time judiciously and invest in your future wisely. It’s always first things first! Attend classes each day, complete homework, study and then do the other things you want to do. You’ll always have plenty of time for the other stuff.
  • Be open to growth and guidance from others. Use all the tools in your bag: family, friends, professors and administrators. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — it’s a sign of strength, not weakness. If necessary, ask sooner rather than later.
  • Many people have invested in you and your success. You honor their investment of trust, confidence and credibility by committing yourself to and acting in accordance with the principles outlined above.


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