5 Tips On How To Keep Your Sanity While Getting Through Your College Readings

Yes, you can get through it.

We’ve all been there. Here are some tips and strategies for readings so you can feel less stressed and overwhelmed in college.

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Required readings are a joy and a pain. On one hand, college gives you access to texts that could help you plenty with your field of interest that aren’t easily accessible. On the other…there’s just so much of them. Dozens of readings per class, dozens or even hundreds of pages each—it’s often a nightmare. We all have our unique ways of dealing with them.

Back in college, I wasn’t the most stellar text reader, but a few things worked. And I’ve seen a few things work for my friends and classmates. So, we present a few tips that will hopefully help you manage to get through your readings efficiently. And yes, many of them will sound familiar, but with how many times you’ve heard them before, how committed were you to making them stick? Regardless, this could simply be a reminder to heed such advice.

Reading text you didn’t voluntarily choose is a difficult endeavor. But if you want to learn, or just pass your class, you have to face the music and open up those papers or that PDF file. Here are a few ways to make that task bearable.


Prioritization depends on a number of things, like which classes requires a quiz after every reading, how relevant a reading is to the day’s discussion, which readings’ topics will be discussed first, how strict a teacher is, and so much more. Learning how to properly prioritize allows you to distribute your time and effort more efficiently and now which readings need your imminent attention.


Not every kind of note-taking or annotation works for people. Some people do Cornell notes, but some people highlight “only the important things” (and then highlight the entire paragraph). Some people use sticky notes to add further explanation, but some people simply write “???” or “huh?” on the margins (me). Some people print out their readings and some people prefer to stick to digital. Try out a few methods and see what sticks, because it’s a greater pain to try and emulate a method that doesn’t make things any easier for you.


Call me a hypocrite. I can’t even count how many readings I brushed off because I thought I’d have time later when I actually could have read them then. Even I rolled my eyes every time a professor advised us to “manage our time wisely,” but they were right. Everyone who ever advises you to manage your time wisely is right.

Had I committed myself to doing a certain task within a certain period of time—with no detours, no distractions, no giving up—then I probably could have breezed through readings and learned a thing or two. Keep a schedule and stick to it. It’ll take some practice and time, but you’ll get the hang of it. If you find yourself falling into boredom when it comes to readings, you can set a timer for yourself for say 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour. That way, you won’t be needing to look at your clock or phone constantly for the time or feel that you’ve wasted so much of it because the alarm hasn’t gone off yet.


That’s the problem, isn’t it? We have tiny attention spans and a penchant for being easily distracted. But I believe your willpower is strong, and you can commit yourself to the work. Take it one reading at a time. Pace yourself or set a schedule for breaks. The Pomodoro technique, for instance, can help keep you on schedule. If you feel the urge to quit or do something else, convince yourself to stay on task and reward yourself once the work is done.


Let’s be real here, with everything on your plate, all those double- and triple-digit-page readings won’t be digested equally. Some of them won’t even be read at all. So, aim high and aim to do your best, but don’t overshoot, because panicking over not being able to keep up with an unrealistic pace just adds a whole lot more stress.

Get creative! Skim when you need to, coordinate with your friends to read different sections of a text and come together to talk or write it out until you have a clear idea, or just focus on the main ideas—just be honest with yourself and be realistic about what you can and are willing to do. A missed reading is not the end of the world—but always take advantage of the fact that you have the privilege of learning.

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