Should Colleges Require Summer Reading of Incoming Freshmen – Yes

It’s always a nasty surprise for young students on the long vacation between High School and college (or University in the UK). They think they’ve got one last summer of carefree partying, and suddenly a nice fat reading list pops up.

Now of course, many young students will moan about having to do this reading, and many of them will have parents gullible enough to listen to their plaintive bleating. The thing is, though, that a certain amount of preparatory study is ESSENTIAL to make sure the student has the best possible start to their higher education.

If you’ve never worked in education, you wouldn’t believe how much knowledge kids can lose during the summer vacation. And I’m just talking about the UK 6 week summer holiday here, I’m aware that the break is even longer in the US. Keeping in the intellectual game by reading steadily throughout the summer will help students retain their skill levels, as well as prepare them for the challenges ahead.

The thing is, higher education is a whole new ball game, requiring a far greater degree of independent learning. Reading your way through a pile of books over the summer is a great introduction to this kind of education. Also, incoming freshmen will have studied at different schools with different teachers, who will have probably stressed different aspects of the curriculum. A good reading list will smooth over the cracks in the students’ subject knowledge, so that everyone starts with a solid grounding in the subject. It’s just not fair to expect the most able students to be held back in their first term because basic concepts of a course have to be restated again and again.

Also, as any graduate can attest, your time in higher education FLIES past. You’re going to have to do that reading at some point if you want to get a decent qualification, and much better that you do it at your leisure over that first summer, rather than waiting until the night before your exams start…

And it’s only reading, after all! Before I started my French degree, I did my summer reading by the pool, on buses, in bed, in front of the TV, in the garden… it’s hardly strenuous and means students can hit the ground running when they begin their university education.