1. The freshman summer reading assignment for colleges on your list. Most universities require all their freshman to read the same assigned book before arriving on campus in the fall. This reading assignment is a telling text for what you might be reading in college, or what universities you’re researching might value. Even if you don’t finish the book for every school on your list, you might learn a lot in the process. Some examples of past freshman reading assignments include: The Proving Ground, The Things They Carried, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Bad Feminist, and All the Light We Cannot See. You can usually find past assignments on the Current Students tab on each school’s website.
2. Something for fun! Anything! Reading (including Hunger Games or other entertaining series) can do a lot to help with your writing and literacy skills, in addition to boosting your standardized test scores. Even STEM fields require lots of reading when you get to college, so it’s a good thing to learn to enjoy early. This includes the internet! Just because you’re reading on a computer, doesn’t mean you’re not digesting information. If you don’t like the novels you’ve been assigned in school, read articles from reputable publications on topics that you’re excited about. Everything helps. And you might learn a little in the process.
3. Personal essays. This is the genre that the Common Application essay and so many other admissions essays are written in. Familiarize yourself with this genre, and you’ll have a much easier time writing in it. The fun thing about personal essays is you get to read about — you guessed it — personal things. Check out Tina Fey or Amy Poehler’s personal essays for a humorous bent, or Joan Didion for something more serious.
4. Your SAT/ACT test prep book. We know it’s not glamorous, but they have some excellent tips! The more you become comfortable with the format of the SAT and ACT, the easier time you’ll have facing the test in the fall or spring. Know which passages tend to trip you up (Natural Science? Prose? Social Sciences? Humanities?) and which you can breeze through. If you time yourself on the reading sections, even without answering any of the questions, you can practice your speed reading and skimming skills.
5. Books for your upcoming high school courses. Nothing will help you more in the fall of your senior year than being ahead on your reading. Email your English teacher for a syllabus or reading list if they have it (most AP and IB teachers will have a list they’re drawing from, if they haven’t fully settled on what they’re teaching) and start in on the books now, rather than a week or two (or even month) before the test. Cramming isn’t going to help you, your English grade, or your college application season stress, so getting ahead will make a huge difference. Even if you can’t fully complete the books, take advantage of the time you have this summer and dive into The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice now and allow yourself the right amount of breathing room to enjoy some great works of literature.