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Read Your Way into College

Although many parts of the college application journey typically begin in your junior and senior years, there’s one key yet often overlooked activity you should start much earlier: reading. And no, we’re not just talking about what’s assigned in school. We mean reading for pleasure. Here’s why making reading a habit could be one of the best decisions you make in high school.


1.    Maximizing Academic Performance

Reading is like a workout for your brain. Every book and article you read offers a new perspective and builds your comprehension, focus, and vocabulary. Reading also improves your understanding of grammar and boosts your spelling abilities. All these are critical skills for excelling in high school and improving your GPA. Since your performance in school carries a lot of weight when it comes to applying for college, making reading a habit can have a big impact on your academic journey and college options.

The benefits of reading extend well beyond high school. Many new college students are surprised by the sheer amount of reading required. Whether you’re reading complex research articles or classic literature, being a proficient reader can ease your college workload. Regular reading not only improves your speed and comprehension but also enhances your ability to engage with complex material, discuss it critically, and retain the information— essential skills for any college student.

2.    Boosting Standardized Test Scores

For students preparing for the SAT or ACT, regular reading can significantly improve verbal scores. It's not just about cramming vocabulary; it's about developing skills that improve comprehension across all sections of these tests. Studies have shown that students who read regularly make significant gains, not only in reading speed and comprehension of reading passages but also in developing reasoning skills needed for tackling complex math problems. Also, reading literature, history, and science texts can familiarize you with the type of language and content found in standardized tests. This helps you feel more comfortable and confident tackling those tricky reading sections.

3.    Enhancing College Essays

When it's time to fill out your college applications, being well-read can really make you stand out. Colleges want students who can think critically and engage with complex ideas—skills you sharpen through regular reading. Reading can also provide great material for your application essays because you can highlight how certain books have shaped your goals and intellectual curiosity.

In fact, top universities often ask about the books you read because it reveals your curiosity, motivation, and depth of thinking. Columbia University, for example, asks: “List a selection of texts, resources and outlets that have contributed to your intellectual development outside of academic courses, including but not limited to books, journals, websites, podcasts, essays, plays, presentations, videos, museums and other content that you enjoy.”

Reading a wide range of high-quality texts can also greatly impact your writing style, sentence structure, and use of literary devices. This exposure is invaluable when you're trying to create a standout college essay that effectively tells your story.

4. Reducing Stress and Anxiety

High school can be stressful, with its mix of social pressures, exams, and planning for the future. Reading can be a sanctuary. Losing yourself in a book provides an escape from stress, providing a mental break from the demands of daily life. Studies have shown that just 6 minutes of reading can lower stress levels by up to 68%. This doesn't just improve your mental health; it can lead to better sleep, more effective study habits, and a happier school life.

5. The Endless Benefits of Reading

Beyond helping with college admissions, reading offers lifelong personal benefits. It sharpens your mind, boosts memory, and helps you focus. It makes you a better writer, a sharper thinker, and someone who can hold their own in a conversation—skills that are invaluable in college and beyond. The best part is that reading's benefits only grow over time—the more you read, the more you gain.

Plus, it's easy to get started. You don't need much—just grab a book, an e-reader, or a library card if you’re on a budget. Whether you're at home, on the bus, or at a coffee shop, reading is something you can do anywhere.


With summer just around the corner, now's the perfect time to get started. Check out these book recommendations for teens, pick a book that interests you, find a cozy spot, and let's get reading!



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