“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.” The words of American aphorist, Mason Cooley, could not ring truer today. In our previous post we talked about how reading books is a great way to help you strengthen your college application, especially at a time when many of us are confined to our homes.

Indeed, reading can enhance various aspects of your application, whether it is your verbal score on the ACT or SAT, the caliber of your writing, or just by adding overall credibility to your profile by showing that you are someone who is intellectually curious. Of course, your college application is not the only reason you should be reading! Books can improve your critical thinking, concentration and vocabulary, and more importantly, broaden your horizons. Another benefit of inculcating this habit now, if there were not enough already, is that it will help you to prepare for the rigorous demands of college-level reading. Unlike high school, reading constitutes a core component of a North American college education, in particular. In addition to required readings, which will be integral to your class discussions and exams, you will also be expected to read additional texts and journal articles for your coursework and assignments.

Where do I start?

Perhaps there are certain subjects that interest you, or there is a particular author that you like. Maybe you already have a bucket list of books to read, in which case you could start with one of those! But if you need some inspiration on where to start, here are a few resources that could help:

  • College reading lists:Colleges publish various reading lists for incoming freshmen, which comprise texts selected by faculty and current students. Even if you are still in the process of applying to college, it is worth taking a look at the books on these lists, perhaps from one of the schools that you intend to apply to — it could make a great topic of conversation at an admissions interview. Penguin Random House has in fact published a great round-up of common reading books from over 400 colleges and universities!
  • Course material:While many of you may be undecided about your major, reading some academic literature can be a great way to explore your options. Google Scholar or academic databases like JSTOR and ScienceDirect are the perfect places to start, and if you have access to the subscription-based journals through your school, that is even better. It is important that you start to familiarize yourself with academic writing, as the style is often more technical and dense. A lot of universities in the UK also publish lists of suggested texts for all undergraduates to read before starting specific courses. Here is a great list from Oxford, which includes course-specific material for all of its undergraduate courses as well as current research from the University.
  • Classic literature:There is a reason behind their name and that is because their relevance is eternal. From the Victorian period of Jane Eyre to the Jazz Age of The Great Gatsby, these iconic pieces of literature will transport you to bygone eras from all around the world. An added advantage for college applicants is that they will often offer great preparation for mandatory freshman English courses, not to mention opening your eyes to issues, ways of life, and human experiences you may have never considered! While there is no dearth of books to choose from in this genre, here is a helpful list of essential novels that has been curated specifically for college-bound students.
  • Life advice for college-bound students:These books are a great place to start if you are looking for a lighter read. In addition to offering practical tips on how to adjust to different aspects of college-life, some of them are also filled with first-hand, often entertaining, anecdotes to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what you should expect from college. Here is a compilation of 5 Advice Books for College-Bound Kids of 2020.

Remember that reading is a personal and subjective exercise, so you should not feel like you have to enjoy a book just because your friend did or because it was recommended by a teacher. If a book does not captivate you, try something else! Even better, think about what it was that you did not like about that book. Reading can be a great way to learn about yourself and this is what will help you to develop as a critical thinker.

We will continue to share more ideas on how to improve your application, so be sure to watch this space for more updates!