You just found out that your college requires all incoming first-year students to read a novel (or other lengthy text) before they arrive in the fall. Is this for real? Do you have to do it? The summer before you start college is supposed to be your last "break" before being introduced to the academic rigors of higher education. So what's the deal with summer reading assignments?
The Reasons Behind Summer Reading Assignments & Programs
Colleges and universities are increasingly participating in summer reading assignments and programs for a variety of reasons. These programs help build a sense of community with the incoming class of students. They also introduce incoming students to a campus's standards of academic engagement. (Participating in the planned activities surrounding summer reading will quickly demonstrate the difference between high school and college-level discussions.) They also send a clear message that, when you do arrive on your campus in the fall, you will be expected to continue with your academic pursuits, regardless of how excited you are about everything else that happens during one's time in college.
Why Should I Do It?
Most incoming students aren't too sure about why they should read a text or other assignment before arriving in the fall. There are a few good arguments about why you should. First, you don't want to look like a huge dork by being the only person who didn't do the homework. (You went to college to continue your education, and you didn't even do the first assignment?!) Second, it's a great way to meet people. Reading the book may have taken a lot of time and effort, and you may not even have liked it. But at least you can participate in an interesting discussion with your peers and not have to sit terrified in the classroom or auditorium, hoping no one notices or calls on you. Isn't it worth that extra bit of effort during the summer?
Do I Have to Do It?
Each campus has different requirements for summer reading. It's probably a pretty safe bet that you won't get kicked out of school for not doing it. But people will notice (especially that professor you didn't know you wanted to impress until you arrived on campus). College is different from high school because you are given a lot more autonomy over your academic career. If you don't want to do the homework, no one is going to yell at you. But you risk losing the chance to interact with your peers, professors, and other members of the community in what is most likely going to be an exciting series of events. You don't really have to do much in college, but there are certain things that you definitely should do, and summer reading is one of them.
What Happens with Everyone Who Has Read It Once Orientation Starts?
The author may come to campus to speak, there may be small discussion groups during orientation, and the text could be referenced in some of your first-year classes. There may be a program around the book in your residence hall. It might even prove to be the favorite book of that cutie in your chemistry class. Regardless, the text, its author, and its themes will most likely be present and intertwined with your college experience from your first day on campus. Make sure you're prepared to hit the ground running.