Dear First Generation College Student,
Decades ago, I was you. Specifically, I was first-generation low-income (#FLI). Now, I have a doctorate and teach and train others. As an undergraduate, this was not my goal, as I simply pursued a single college degree and a good job. Math, science, and writing were difficult topics for me due to poor reading skills and lack of academic vocabulary. Why? Several variables lead to poor reading and vocabulary, some of which my apply to you. They are as follows with my insight as a former FLI college student and developmental reading instruction specialist:
- Lack of prior practice reading (e.g., no library visits or books around the house due to lack of funds, free time, or low priority/value);
- Lack of K-12 homework help (e.g., no available time with parent, or parent unable to tackle homework, and no funds for tutors);
- No direct instruction of reading skills and strategies in secondary school (i.e., generally middle and high schools focus more on writing skills in English class); and
- Peer or family pressure for the practical status quo.
Lacking academic vocabulary is a snowball effect because with each scholastic year, more vocabulary is taught or otherwise required of you. Don’t fret, with a lot of effort and a growth mindset, you can decrease the gap between you and your high-achieving peers. Tackle your reading assignments early by previewing (skimming and scanning) and looking up unknown words. Keep a log of useful words to reuse in your writing assignments. Use software applications such as electronic flashcards or Grammarly (suggests replacement of overused words or misuse along with syntax and spelling errors).
Here are some reading comprehension strategies & study aids:
- Use this online form to review, summarize, study, and think about your reading assignment: Student Guides & Strategies
- SQ4R: Survey! Question! Read! Recite! Review! Reflect! (Robinson, 1970)
- Cornell Note-Taking (Pauk, 1950) Download their PDF to use.
- Learn how to read a scientific article: Study Guides & Strategies.
This presentation provides some metacognitive strategies to improve your reading skills for college: (Cook, 1989)