A new semester starts, and here comes the reading list. You skim over it for a minute and are immediately frustrated. There seems to be no way to complete all those books, articles and whatever in the time allotted. However, it is not as impossible as you might imagine.
In this article I will provide some useful advice for tackling reading assignments in college while not losing all the personal time.
Pick Your Battles
In any class you will have compulsory readings and supplemental materials. Most likely it will be obligatory for you to finish the textbook. However, your professor will also appreciate you going an extra mile and reading some more additionally. Who does not want an extra credit?
Even if you are super adamant to absorb it all and be the best student in the history, you are still a human. So, unless you don’t mind having a nervous breakdown, you will need to be smart about your studies. Moreover, the professors themselves do not expect you to read everything on the list. Most of the essential info is already included in the lectures and the textbook. So, the supplemental reading is just that… supplemental.
So, instead of plunging right into the first option, do some research and choose the books which seem to be most helpful, appropriate or simply interesting in the course. Then estimate how much time you will need for each of them. Only then can you undertake your reading practice.
Don’t Speed. Just Focus
Nowadays it is popular to brag about the number of pages one can read per minute. However, being speedy does not mean being efficient. It is much better to read slower, but actually grasp and digest the information, rather than plow through the pages like some sort of machine.
The fact of the matter is that human brain is not wired to process data at a hurried pace. There are a limited number of cones in the eye which can perceive words on the page. There is only so much info the prefrontal cortex can process at any given moment. It is important not to overburden your eyes and brain, and be reasonable about your intellectual capabilities.
It does not mean that you can just let your eyes wander. It is highly significant to train yourself constantly to become a masterful reader. Stay focused on the task at hand and set a time limit for its completion. Such drastic measures should help you resist temptation to go on social networks and forget about your reading altogether.
Practice Active Reading
Before you even start reading, take a brief overview of the material. Check how many chapters there are, and what information they cover. Take a look at the questions at the end.
During the reading, try to jot down questions which surface in the process. Those you can answer afterwards, so that not to lose the train of thought. At the end of each chapter, take a couple minutes to write a brief summary or recite most critical facts. Review the collected information in a couple days or a week.
Avoid the danger of highlighting! It gives you a false sense of knowing. In reality, however, you remember not the new bit of knowledge, but the fact that you highlighted it.
Follow these tips and improve your reading skills!