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A Survival Guide With a Difference
A review of The Sikh College Survival Guide: Planning Your Academic Success by Upneet Singh (Inspiring Sikhs for Success, Oak Brook, Illinois, 2004; pp. 70; $5.00).


The Sikh Times, Oct. 3, 2004

Photo: The Sikh College Survival Guide

Published by Inspiring Sikhs for Success (Oak Brook, Illinois), this handsomely produced survival guide takes a unique approach to coping with college in America. Short essays by current and former Sikh students as well as parents focus on how to traverse higher education with your religious beliefs intact.

As the book correctly emphasizes, higher education often signifies a trying phase in every youngster's life as he or she flies away from the nest and into the big unknown. Nearly two decades of social pressure from parents, siblings, relatives, and childhood friends gives way to a different class of peer pressure. By and large, new college students experience a newfound freedom to live life according to their own set of priorities and learn from mistakes.

The book contains potent analyses aimed at helping Sikh students pick a college based on location, size, test score cut-off levels, student retention percentages, parental guidance, fees, financial aid, religious freedom, and Sikh demographics on campus.

The ten testimonials represent a broad section of schools including Ivy League colleges as well as smaller public and private institutions of higher learning.

Other highlights include an essay by the successful entrepreneur G.P. Singh and a well-researched list of Internet-based resources.

As one reads through the book, however, one wonders whether individual religious beliefs are meant to evolve or remain static. Where the book seems to falter is in presupposing the right outcome for new adults coming to grips with their spirituality.

In embracing only the orthodox Sikh (Khalsa) form, the book seems to turn its back on a vast chunk of the actual Sikh population on the ground. Much of the discussion revolves around maintaining the external symbols of orthodox Sikh spirituality epitomized by unshorn hair and, in the case of men, turbans. Consequently, the book fails to address the Sikh majority.

In response to a draft copy of this review the book's author graciously acknowledged, 'We look to ideal [orthodox Sikh] state for inspiration, but do not try to alienate [unorthodox Sikhs].'

The importance some of the book's essayists attach to the presence of other Sikhs on campus seems to suggest a sense of insecurity and cultism.

This little book (70 pages) packs a great punch. The essays are short and the pages turn quickly and easily. Excellent editing, with help from the well-known essayist I.J. Singh, has kept errors to a minimum.