How to Schedule Reading Assignments

No matter what your major is (well, okay, some are worse than others), you’ll quickly notice that college courses require way more reading than even most advanced high school courses. Just from looking at your syllabus, it’s hard to figure out how you’re supposed to fit in reading 75 pages in a religion textbook, two chapters in a geology text, critique two Chekhov stories and read Richard III in three days. Plus all of your regular written assignments, actual classes, and stuff like sleeping and eating, too, and maybe all that reserve reading your art history professor just e-mailed you about this morning? English majors will obviously have more reading than a science student busy with lab-heavy coursework, but introductory courses, theory-based seminars and common curriculum courses pile on the reading for all students. If you need help scheduling in all your reading assignments, don’t get overwhelmed: you just need to learn a few little shortcuts and study tips to keep up.

Unless you have a photographic memory, there’s probably no realistic expectation that you’ll read and remember everything that your college professors put in front of you. There just isn’t time, and most professors do understand that the bulk of what you actually learn in class won’t come from obscure annotations in reserve readings. But some professors do like tricking students, and a lot of teachers give pop quizzes to keep students motivated to do extra readings, which (and don’t get mad at us for saying so) really do help you understand the course material, giving you a different perspective and putting the subject matter in a context that’s easier to digest. You’ll need to practice your skimming skills: reviewing titles and sub-eadings before even scanning the work. A general guideline to help is to read the first few sentences and last two sentences of each paragraph, underlining and highlighting key words and concepts as you go. That way, you spend less time reading everything and basically just prepping the material to serve as a study guide and give you a head start in the next class discussion.

Besides scanning, you’ll need to become very organized and set daily goals for yourself. Compare each of your syllabi, and then in your master planner or homework tracker, write down the writing assignments and goals you set for yourself. Split up readings so that you’re not overwhelmed, and so that the material will sink in better — read chapter 3 on Wednesday and chapter 4 before class Thursday if you can. Don’t skip reading if you can possibly help it: bring it with you when you take a break outside or read before bed. Making yourself read a little each day is the easiest way to keep up, so that your texts don’t crush you.

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