New book offers blueprint to build a more clever student

Author: Julie Hail Flory

Anita Kelly

College-bound students know they have to be book-smart in order to get in to a top school. But when it comes to impressing professors and standing out in the crowd, good grades are only one part of the equation.

A new book by a University of Notre Dame psychologist emphasizes the importance of “practical intelligence” and offers advice to new college students on how to give their teachers what they really want and get the most out of their hard-earned – and often expensive – college education.

“The Clever Student: A Guide to Getting the Most from your Professors” by Anita E. Kelly, professor of psychology at Notre Dame, aims to give students a leg up by offering strategies for top performance in the college classroom.

In the book, newly released by Corby Books, Kelly offers strategies to college students on such topics as social intelligence and classroom participation, as well as an insider’s perspective on how professors think. The book also provides practical tips for how to handle missed classes or exams, write a great paper for a demanding professor, and get top-notch faculty letters of recommendation. It also contains a test of social intelligence in the classroom so students can see how savvy they are compared to their peers.

Anita Kelly book cover

In conjunction with the book’s release, Kelly also has launched a new Clever Student blog, which can be found on the Web at

“It is my hope that through the book and the blog, I can help students use their social intelligence to get the most out of their professors, including getting very good grades and amazing letters of recommendation,” Kelly said. “At the very least, I hope these tools will help students feel better about confusing or upsetting interactions with their professors.”

Kelly also is the author of “The Psychology of Secrets” and numerous scientific articles on secrecy, self-presentation and self-concept change. Her work on secrecy has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Glamour and Health.

A 1986 graduate of Northwestern University, Kelly earned her doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Florida in 1991. She became a licensed psychotherapist in 1993 while serving as an assistant professor at Iowa State University, where she was awarded Outstanding Faculty Member for teaching. She has been at Notre Dame since 1994 and became a Kaneb Teaching Fellow in 2008.

Contact: Anita Kelly,