Literature’s Life Lessons

The secret element to the perfect college applicant has finally been revealed, and believe it or not, it’s not a straight-A report card. Dr. Kat Cohen, one of the top college admissions counselors in the world, gives insight into the one habit that can set an applicant apart from the crowd.

According to Cohen’s latest article in the Huffington Post, admissions officers no longer spend hours and hours shoveling through piles of applications searching for the ideal student. Much like a profession, admissions officers are looking for students with concentrated interests, rather than a vast range of topics. A high school senior’s sudden interest in the debate team and the environmental club can be utterly transparent. With a relatively focused interest in subjects like politics or science, admissions officers look for someone who is knowledgable in that field and wants to explore the subject further. So how does Cohen suggest students find their niche? Surprise! The answer is reading.

Cohen suggests that reading outside of school required assignments can be one of the most lucrative habits for aspiring collegiate students. Leisure reading not only relaxes the mind, but builds an extensive vocabulary, pin-points interests (“you are what you read”), sharpens writing skills and exposes your hidden personality.

Despite popular belief, leisure reading is not just a way to kill time at the dentists office or a last resort activity on a rainy day. There are a multitude of benefits that stem from literary habits that can carry on throughout a lifetime. Reading teaches valuable lessons, even when they come from the most unexpected characters. For example, in Mikhail Bulgakov’s Russian tale “The Master and Margarita”, the devil himself teaches atheists not to belittle people because of their religious affiliations. Though the devil’s character may not be the world’s ideal representation of an upstanding role model, he teaches readers a great deal about respecting others and accepting each other’s differences.

Similarly, reading can identify morals that readers may wish to uphold in their lives. A popular example is J.D. Salinger’s classic novel “The Catcher in the Rye”, which stirred controversy over the protagonist’s questionable morals. Commonly located on school reading lists, parents expressed concern over the affect the main character, Holden Caulfield, would have on the youth of America, due to his lack of respect for himself, authority and others. However, introducing a character such as this challenges readers to adopt or deny the characters moral make up, and portrays the ways in which our moral choices change our lives.

This helpful tool from Cohen is one of the simplest tips to help young adults find their true passions, not to mention let them explore other areas of interest and learn valuable lessons. Perhaps John Steinbeck’s story telling will spark a young writers creativity, or Jane Austen’s leading ladies will ignite a fire within the country’s future female politicians. Incredible things can be inspired by books, we need only to turn the pages.

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