It is quite clear that we live in a digital age where our minds are often inundated with information from platforms like Facebook and Instagram and also from text messages we receive from family and friends. We spend a great deal of our time responding to notifications, time that we could otherwise spend devoted to old-school, deep reading. I get it! In fact, I am sometimes guilty of it myself getting carried away by such distractions (and I even enjoy it). However, I think it is important to note the difference between the texts found in a book or informative article and the text messages found in your phone. I favor the former and here are a few reasons why:
Engaged reading can only improve your SAT/ACT scores
First, as many of us know, the current college application process involves more than just completing a set of courses in high school and achieving a certain GPA. It means preparation for standardized tests like the ACT or SAT. It means proving your intellectual strengths. For the ACT or SAT in particular, building the habit of engaged reading is crucial to see progress not only in the verbal sections of the ACT/SAT but all throughout. I see this all the time with my students. In fact, various studies show that deep engaged reading is actually connected to cognitive progress over time. This cognitive progress can help you overcome the reading section of the ACT/SAT, give you exposure to new vocabulary and new ideas, and even give you new forms of reasoning to solve that super complicated math problem.
Colleges want to know that you’re reading
Second, aside from standardized tests, colleges and universities admire students who go out of their way to delve into readings of their interest. So much so that often colleges and universities might ask for your favorite outside readings (not assigned in your English class) on their applications. Columbia for example asks “List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year” in one of their 2018-2019 supplement prompts. Boston College asks “Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?”. Both of these questions provide an opportunity to show that you strive to become more informed in areas that interest you. Reading in this case becomes an advantage during the application process. You can use a book to talk about your passions and values or how a book pushed you to explore a certain subject.
You’ll understand the world better
Finally and most importantly, reading is a tool to learn greater empathy. I read an article recently that asserts this: words serve as a vehicle that transports you through someone else’s perspective. When you read deeply and meaningfully, you come across characters that are just like you. You also get exposed to others that are completely different than you. But reading is so intimate that you are often looking through the eyes of a character whether understanding their struggle or celebrating their success. In fact, different parts of our brain that have to do with emotion activate as we read about the life of a character. As the article pointed out, when we are deeply engaged with a story our brains mirror the actions and feelings of the characters. When we read, we exercise our brain to process new ways of forging relationships between ourselves and others. You have the opportunity to gain more sophisticated ways of understanding the world.
You might favor reading quick posts on your phone because it requires minimal effort. However, keep in mind that with minimal effort comes minimal rewards. You might be slowing your test preparation progress. You might be giving up an opportunity to increase your reading speed and comprehension. You might be giving up an opportunity to understand the thoughts and feelings of someone different.
What I would encourage is instead for you to choose to participate in deep reading. Pick an area that you like, something that interests you, and research a book related to it. If you still have a hard time finding a book, come to any of us at LogicPrep and we will gladly help you.
Reading makes us smarter, more informed, and more empathetic. These characteristics will be highly valued as you apply to college and even beyond. Why not start building them now? You want to go into college showing maturity through empathy and also demonstrating that you can handle the volume and complexity of college-level reading material.