The Magic Potion:  The 2 R’s—Research and Reading

What do colleges actually want?  Students, parents, advisors, and teachers alike ask themselves this question every year as they wade into the college admission process. colleges-want-research

The truth is:  colleges want students who are passionate about learning.  They don’t want students obsessed with being perfect.  They don’t want straight A’s for the sake of straight A’s.  Colleges want students who truly love to learn.  Students who will go out of their way
to find the answer to a question, just because they’re interested.  Students who volunteer to stay after class to help with an experiment because they wonder how it will turn out.  Students who happily wander through a bookstore or the library, hoping to find something new and interesting to learn.

When a college chooses to interview a student, one of the first questions they ask a student is “What are you reading?”.  Sure, a student can spout titles from the summer reading list, but any admission professional knows these lists like the back of their hand.  Scarlett Letter?  Fahrenheit 911?  Unbroken?  Catcher and the Rye?  The Things They Carried?  Colleges know all of these.  What else?  You’d be amazed by the confused looks students get on their faces when they realize their summer reading list books simply aren’t enough for top-tier schools.

Love of learning is not something a student can fake.  And it’s not something that develops overnight.  How can you foster a child’s love of learning and therefore improve his/her chances in the college admission process?

schoolboy with open book on white background. Isolated 3D image

  1. Promote reading for the sake of reading. More often than not, students are choosing their smart phones over leisure reading.  Students should be exploring new topics through reading. They should develop passions o
    utside of the summer reading list.   Students should aim to read at least 3-5 books for pleasure each year of high school.
  2. Innately, reading will develop a sense of curiosity and most often this curiosity then lends itself to research. Colleges are most interested in students who have an interest in or experience with research. This could be at the high school level (chemistry projects) or it could be at the college level (summer research with a professor).  Encourage children to ask questions.  This is where research begins.  From there, research follows a student’s relationship with his/her teachers.  If a student is interested in English, go meet with the teacher.  Perhaps he/she could use some help in reading more about the Bronte sisters.  Interested in anatomy?  Perhaps the anatomy teacher knows an area college professor for whom the student could work over the summer.

In sum, curiosity is key.  Students must foster a sense of curiosity early in their high school career so that this quality can serve them in college and even beyond.  Reading and research—this is the magic potion that creates a competitive college application.




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