Real College The Essential Guide to Student Life

A book of communication, difficult conversations, negotiation and life advice for college students


Written by Difficult Conversations co-author Douglas Stone and Harvard Law School student Elizabeth Tippett, Real College is a book of communication, difficult conversations, negotiation and life advice for college students. The wide-ranging advice in Real College will help students to:

  • Identify common assumptions that can lead to conflicts with roommates
  • Engage with professors inside and outside the classroom
  • Manage procrastination and perfectionism
  • Have productive conversations about issues like race, gender, and sexual orientation
  • Talk with parents about expectations and majors
  • Encourage a friend struggling with mental health issues to seek help


The book follows four fictional students via their e-mail correspondence. Through this device, Stone and Tippett analyze common mistakes that students make and offer guidance on how best to manage the challenging transition to college life.


“Remarkably well written, truly reader friendly, and full of good ideas. As both a parent and a professor, I highly recommend this book.”Richard Light, author of Making the Most of College, Walter H. Gale Professor of Education, Harvard University

“Masterfully presents critical information on key topics in a format that is engaging and entertaining. It should be on the bookself of every incoming college freshman – and their parents. ” – Julie C. Lythcott-Haims, Dean of Freshmen, Stanford University

“Extremely funny, astonishingly helpful. Every college student and college-bound high school senior should read it.” – Henry C. Moses, Headmaster, Trinity School and former Dean of Freshman, Harvard College

“Stone and Tippett address serious, substantive, and challenging issues with deep psychological wisdom. This book is superb “must” reading for any student on the brink of college life and any parent seeking an understanding of what college holds in store for their maturing daughters and sons.” – Charles Ducey, Ph.D., Director, Bureau of Study Counsel, Harvard University

“If you read and use this book, your college journey will be much happier and more productive. Every student affairs office should recommend it.”Loren Pope, author of Colleges that Change Lives and Looking Beyond the Ivy League

See also Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (New York: Viking/Penguin, 1999).

PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.