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The Reading Advantage: Why It Matters for College Admission and Reading Recommendations

The easiest and most effective way to broaden your vocabulary is to read more. Students who read for enjoyment generally score higher on college entrance exams. Both the ACT and SAT contain passages from literature, history, and science. Unless your high school curriculum is exceptionally rigorous, reading will help you find these types of test questions more familiar and less intimidating.

Reading can be an advantage for college applications and interviews too. Many high school students are surprised to learn how often college admission interviewers ask students to talk about a favorite book. Many college applications include a section for students to list or elaborate on books and electronic publications they read.

Consider these typical interview and application questions: Do you read for pleasure? What do you like to read? Tell me about a book or article that intrigued you. List the books you’ve read in the past year and designate those required for school. 

Research also shows that reading for pleasure leads to increased success in high school, college, and life. Independent reading improves comprehension, concentration, vocabulary, spelling facility, understanding of grammar, and knowledge of the world.

Reading does not need to be a solo activity. Some students organize reading clubs to discuss books and encourage peer participation. Spearheading a book club for peers, younger students, or seniors can be a worthwhile activity that also conveys initiative and leadership.

Many students also keep up with current events, business news, scientific discovery, and medicine through daily email digests that link to interesting articles.  Some students visit news, business, and technology-related websites regularly to expand their knowledge while also improving their reading skills. 

Below is a list of websites, daily news briefings, podcasts, and books that I frequently suggest to students.  Many parents enjoy them too!

  • MIT Campaign for a Better World (a treasure trove of fascinating reading)
  • The Wall Street Journal (business, general news, opinion)
  • CNBC (business news and financial markets) 
  • Wired (technology and much more)
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight (statistical-analysis based stories about politics, sports, science, economics)
  • Books
    • 1984 (George Orwell classic)
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (behavioral economics Nobel Prize) 
    • Malcolm Gladwell bestsellers (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, David and Goliath)
    • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom 
    • The Da Vinci Code by Robert Langdon
    • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 

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