Whether you will be attending university online or on-campus, and whether you are from the U.S. or abroad, your ability to read content and information for comprehension and retention will be extremely important to your academic success in college.

Throughout this series of articles, we are exploring the characteristics successful college students have as well as the challenges they face when entering post-secondary education. We are also providing suggestions from University of Nebraska campus experts about specific skills you can work to acquire now.

Reading is truly an opportunity for you to become an independent and curious learner as well as a critical thinker. You should embrace reading assignments and use them as a time to gain knowledge and reflect. UNHS Academic Adviser Debby Bartz calls this “reading with meaning and purpose."

But the fact is, once you get to college you will be required to read much more material that is at a higher reading level than you have probably experienced in many of your high school courses. You will also not be able to depend as heavily on teacher-guided reflection as college professors will have higher expectations for you.

According to Bartz, right away you will encounter differences in terms of college-level textbooks. Prepare for these books to be:

  • Written at a higher reading level
  • Have longer chapters
  • Have longer sentences
  • Use smaller font
  • Include passages with abstract ideas and technical terminology

To conquer the impending challenges of this higher-level reading, here are some important comprehension techniques Bartz suggests:

  • Preview a book before reading, so you understand how the content is organized.
  • Check for other related resources or study aids—websites, chapter outlines, chapter questions, answer keys, glossary.
  • Review what you learned in second or third grade. Yes, the SQ3R strategies that you learned in elementary school can be applied to help you study at the college level!
  • Look for headings. They are similar to highway signs letting you know what to expect.
  • Actively read by taking notes or highlighting. Use the margins to write 1-3 word descriptions for each paragraph.
  • Review all charts, graphs and photos. This will help you see the application of the content you’ve read.
  • Prepare flash cards for technical terminology.
  • Read and think, think and read. This is where reflection comes in. Apply what you are reading to your own experiences and prior knowledge.
  • Divide reading assignments into manageable sections. A 40-page chapter may be best read in 10-page increments and reviewed after each increment.

Practicing these techniques now will give you an advantage as you enter college courses. While all UNHS courses will help prepare you for college, some specific courses can help you hone your higher-level reading skills. These include:

For more information regarding reading strategies, review the UNHS resources section.