Schoolwork in the summer? What a drag, but is it useful? Does required summer reading perform a necessary task? The short answer is, emphatically, yes. Summer reading lists , when properly administered perform a multitude of tasks. They prepare students for a new environment, give students their first chance to control their education, and reduce the overall work and stress load of students during the semester.
One of the biggest problems incoming students have is the drastic change from high school to college. For many students high school was a breeze where they earned their grades with minimal effort, which is a necessary side effect of educating everyone. College is a choice, and because it is a choice it tends to be harder and more demanding. Administering a required reading list, study guides, and either papers or exams at the start of the school year allows students to realize the level of work they are in for early in the semester. Too many incoming freshmen dig themselves a hole before realizing it and are discouraged at the hard climb back to good grades which they often can’t achieve because it’s too late in the semester. By requiring summer reading and administering early tests, essays, or papers professors can get feedback to their students more rapidly thus giving them more time to become accustomed to their new environment, and to recover if they struggle at the start.
Because college is a new environment that requires a new work ethic summer reading is a good way to prepare students for the increased control they must exert on themselves. Summer is supposed to be a time for fun, but so is college. Students need to be able to take time out of their lives regularly to perform schoolwork. In the summer they won’t be required to do as much as in the school year and that allows them to begin exercising the appropriate self control. If the freshmen decide not to do the required work they will again notice earlier in the semester and have more time to teach themselves what is necessary to make it in college.
One of the reasons it is so hard for students to make it in their first year of college is that the workload is more extreme than they will have experienced in high school. By making a certain amount of work available, and necessary, in the summer professors are able to decrease the overall work load through the semester. Reading and analysis is a large part of most college classes, and when students have a full class load they will be forced to do massive amounts of work just to keep up. Spreading that knowledge out in any way allows students focus on what they are reading which means they will retain that knowledge more fully. Far too many students are forced to cram the knowledge for too many classes at one time which makes it hard for them to remember any of it cohesively.
Summer is fun, specifically the summer after graduating from high school. With a minimal amount of work assigned during the summer freshmen will begin to learn to mesh their new, more free lives with the heavier work load of college. Assigning this reading isn’t destroying a freshman’s future, but instead reducing the stress and complications of their first semester, or year, of college. Spreading out the workload also allows students to retain more which they can take with them to their later classes. College classes build upon their predecessors. Ensuring students maximize their early college experiences allows them to build the necessary education base to succeed later in college life. Essentially students will be better prepared to deal with all of the new things they will be experiencing.