THE great problem of our colleges to-day has to do, not with the institution, but with the life of the individual student. To be thinking of endowment, curriculum, and equipment of the institution and to be considering whether, as a teaching machine, it is falling behind its fellows or the times is one thing; but to be anxious as to whether certain students are getting full value out of this period of their lives so that thereafter they may best get on in the world is quite another thing. For the young men the latter is the more important, and, relatively, it ought to be for the rest of us. In numbers and age of students, in curriculum and equipment, and in the size and pay of their faculty, our earlier colleges would not compare favorably with hundreds of our present high schools, much less with some of our great universities, each of which has twenty times the wealth of all the colleges of a century ago. Yet, notwithstanding the immense increase of institutional wealth, the average student is not getting what he ought out of his college career, nor as much of real value for his later life as did his predecessor of fifty or a hundred years ago. Hence the gain of our college in efficiency as an instrument for instruction has been accompanied by a loss in direct personal influence on the character of the student. Alma Mater has grown to be splendid, but her nourishing powers for true manhood have often become correspondingly less.
It is to study these conditions -- to present the young man's side of the problem -- that this book has been written. Much has been published on the college from the teaching and administrative points of view, but substantially nothing from the student's. We must get away from the conventional point of view of the educator and consider the undergraduate as an individual.