How to Keep up With College Reading

Stay on top of a heavy reading load

College student studying at table
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The level of out-of-class reading required in college can be pretty intense. If you're new to college, your reading load is likely significantly higher than what you experienced in high school; if you're a senior in college, the level seems to go up each year. Regardless of your specific situation, knowing how to keep up with college reading can be a serious challenge.

Fortunately, there's no one right way to stay on track with your reading. A manageable solution comes from finding something that works for your own learning style—and realizing that being flexible is part of any long-term solution.

Determine How to Make Progress

Completing your assigned reading is more than just scanning your eyes across the page; it's understanding and thinking about the material. For some students, this is best accomplished in short bursts, whereas others learn best by reading for longer periods of time. Think about and even experiment with what works best for you. Do you:

  • Retain more by reading in 20-minute periods?
  • Learn better by spending an hour or two really diving into the reading and not doing anything else?
  • Need to have background music on, be in a loud cafe, or have the quiet of the library?

Each student has her own way of doing homework effectively; figure out which way is best for you.

Schedule Reading Time

Most students are great at scheduling things like club meetings, football games, classes, and other activities. Additional tasks, like homework and laundry, often just get done whenever possible. This kind of loose scheduling with reading and assignments, however, can lead to procrastination and last-minute cramming.

To avoid this problem, write down—and make sure you keep—time in your schedule to do your reading each week. If you can make an appointment to attend a club meeting, you can certainly schedule a regular block of time to complete your reading assignments

Read Effectively

Some students take notes, others highlight, while a few make flashcards. Doing your reading involves more than just getting from page one to page 36; it requires understanding what you're reading and, possibly, having to use that knowledge later, such as during an exam or in a paper.

To prevent yourself from having to reread later, be effective during your first read-through. It's much easier to go back through your notes and highlights for pages 1–36 than it is to completely reread all 36 pages before your midterm.

Know That You Can't Do Everything

It's a harsh reality—and great time-management skill—to realize that doing 100 percent of your reading 100 percent of the time is nearly (if not actually) impossible in college. Learn what you can get done and prioritize. Can you:

  • Work with other students to break up the reading, and then discuss it in a group later?
  • Let something go in a class you're acing and focus on a course where you're struggling?
  • Skim material for one course, allowing yourself to read materials for another with more time and attention?

Sometimes, you just can't complete all of your college reading, regardless of how hard you try or how good your intentions are. And as long as this is the exception and not the rule, learning how to be flexible and adjust to what you can realistically accomplish will help you bee more effective and productive with the time you have to complete your reading assignments.