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ILUMIN Blog

Helpful tips about college admissions, test preparation and just being a better student, leader and person from ILUMIN Education.

Why Reading More Will Help You Reach Your Dream College

Elton Lin

There are so many good reasons for you to read outside what is assigned by teachers and posted on your friends' Tumblr pages. Reading deepens your understanding of the world and how you fit into it. A long term reading habit benefits writing skills and correlates with higher scores on standardized tests like SAT. Not to mention that reading comes in handy in all types of social situations by supplying you with interesting conversation topics. If nothing else, some colleges want to know what you’ve been reading regularly and for fun. Columbia, Princeton and USC (among others) all provide space on their application to share with them what you read. Surely an application to Princeton calls for more than Harry Potter and Reddit.

Here are seven kinds of reading recommended for every high school student.

1. Think Local

Via blog, free weekly, or local paper, reading local news is critical if you want to effect positive change in the world, and there's no better place to start than your own backyard. Understanding local problems as well as the solutions community leaders are working on can also inspire meaningful capstone projects.

2. Stay Current

You can fight the "I grew up in a bubble" mentality by increasing your understanding of regional, national, and international events. This can be accomplished by reading a major newspaper or news magazine regularly. LA Times, Washington Post, Time and The Week are examples of good options.

3. Read Stories

There's much to be gained from fiction. You can learn about racial injustice in the Deep South during the Depression era, but you will gain a new understanding of what it was like to live in that period by reading To Kill a Mockingbird and other fictional accounts.  That's not to say that you should only read historical novels - fiction in all genres offers something to be learned, from the personal to the political. In Ralph Waldo Emerson's words: "Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." Check here for recommended titles.

4. Learn from Others

As you prepare to make significant life decisions as an adult, there's never a better time to read biographies. Not only does learning about other people's life experiences increase your capacity for empathy, thinking about choices people make and where those choices take them provides valuable life lessons. Biography options here and here.

5. Be Socially Responsible

If you already use social media, you can easily follow at least one organization that is doing good work for a social cause of choice. Students who love the ocean or want to study marine science can follow Save Our Shores. Students concerned about hunger can follow No Kid Hungry or The Hunger Site. The possibilities go on and on.

6. Struggle to Understand

It’s worthwhile to read an online professional or scholarly journal related to an industry or field of your preference. You can expect this type of reading to be slow, requiring the decoding of unfamiliar vocabulary. It's likely you will not understand every point. However, the laborious reading will bring with it an expanded vocabulary and knowledge you might build from to pursue future goals. Lists of journals are here and here.

7. Try Something New

It’s advisable that you read a nonfiction book to learn about something new once in a while, regardless of how relevant it may seem to your goals. Expanding your knowledge base helps you develop intellectually and make interesting connections between different concepts. Browsing Amazon or the New York Times Best Seller List are great ways to find something to read "just because."

Adding more reading to your perhaps tight schedule might seem challenging. At the very least, you can try reading news an hour a week. You can aim to read one article per month from a professional or scholarly journal. You can check the socially-responsible social media from time to time. And each year, you can choose three books - fiction, biography, and other nonfiction - to read during school breaks. Over time, your reading efforts will pay off in multiple ways.