The Secret to College Admissions Success

“Nobody reads anymore.” This lament is heard round the world, and perhaps most loudly in college admissions.

While doing well in school and leading in extracurricular activities will undeniably help you get into an amazing college, reading is the real secret to success.

“How can that be?” you might ask. “You can’t measure it. No one asks you to list every book that you’ve ever read.”

While that may be true, the benefits crop up in multiple parts of the process, in ways that vary from testing to essays. So before you sit down to watch another episode of Modern Family, take note of these top 4 reasons why you need to turn off your television and pick up a book.

1. Research shows that students who are readers perform better on both the reading and math sections of standardized tests. That’s right, math too! While this point easily makes sense for the SAT’s Critical Reading/Verbal section or the ACT’s English and Reading ones, a good reader can tackle the math sections’ word problems in a way a non-reader cannot. After all, the SAT in particular is designed to trick you with its wording, something you can’t learn to overcome in an Algebra or Geometry class. So if you want a higher SAT or ACT score, read more!

2. Students who are readers are inherently better writers. When reading essays, I and admissions officers can immediately perceive who reads and who does not. It appears in the turns of phrase chosen, the depth with which students probe their motivations, and in references made to our cultural canon. You can’t do this is you don’t read. If you want to be able to express your experiences in ways that impress, read more!

3. Students who are readers will have great book selections to list in their applications and interviews, when they are asked to do so. Increasingly, colleges are asking students about their favorite books and how they’ve impacted them. So prepare for this question by picking up great texts today, and as I’ve mentioned before, read more!

4. No matter what your intended major may be, you will have to read in college. A lot. By building up that essential skill before you get into your dream school, you will position yourself to excel. Additionally, you’ll discover that your new peers know a great deal about people, events, and texts you’ve never heard of, so to avoid feeling intimidated, read more!

So what should you read to make the most out of your limited time?

While books, like food, are subject to taste, Ernest Hemingway and any Nobel Prizewinning author are great authors to start with. The reasons are that Hemingway set the standard for modern American English. By reading For Whom the Bell Tolls or A Farewell to Arms, you’ll be absorbing the best and clearest form of modern day writing. As for Nobel Prizewinners, you’ll be guaranteeing that you’re learning from people who have something meaningful to share with the world, and that’s far better than binge-watching the first season of Homeland (no matter how gripping that show is)!

And if you’re not into books, pick up well-written periodicals, including The New York Times, The Economist, and The Atlantic. Besides learning something about contemporary affairs, you’ll find some of the best expository writing out there.

So, if you wish to be successful in the college admissions process and beyond, the best piece of advice that I, or anyone can give you is… turn off the TV and read.

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 8:15 am

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