I’ve always been a bit of a keener, and that’s never been a bad thing for me.

One thing that I always aimed for during a school semester is to be two weeks ahead in readings. Granted, the first week or so of the semester is always a mess due to this process, bit it’s always paid off greatly for me so I continue to do it.

Last semester I was faced with something new; I switched into psychology from health sciences. I met up with my academic advisor who told me that if I wanted to graduate on-time, I needed to take four psychology courses that semester – something he didn’t recommend doing because of how read-heavy it was. Of course, I was stubborn and said I’d give it a try; that I’d always have the option to drop one if I felt too pressured. At least, that’s what I said outwardly.

My feelings inside were an entirely different story. How would it look if I transfer to a new faculty and do poorly? What if my average took a nose dive because of this decision? What if I couldn’t complete the weekly readings?

And so I read ahead. Before the class and semester even started.

My reasoning was that if I could technically eliminate the readings for one whole class, it would only really feel like I was taking three psychology classes. My school uploads past syllabus’, so all I had to do was follow what they did last year.

School started and I was wasn’t completely finished, but that was alright, I only had about three weeks left of readings left that I was able to finish fairly quickly.

And with that story, brings the topic of this blog post. The benefits and drawbacks of reading ahead. What did I gain and what did I feel like I lost from doing this?

The first gain is fairly obvious. I didn’t have to worry about any of those readings for an entire semester, that meant 5-ish hours per week were now freed up, giving me more time to focus on my other classes, ones that still had readings for me to complete. Additionally, when the semester started, I knew a lot about what my professor was talking about. He would bring up a study and I could tell the concept it fell under, and vice versa. 

But this doesn’t mean there weren’t any drawbacks either. While at the start of the semester it felt like I knew everything, by the time I got to the end of the semester all the things I had read four months ago were slowly being forgotten. Being in class where we went over these concepts helped, however, there were many smaller studies not talked in lecture that I forgot about until I needed to study for the exam. Moreover, a lot of the text I read and made notes on weren’t, particularly, needed. The professor tested us only on the studies of these concepts in psychology, rather than on the concepts themselves, meaning that I had over done what was needed.

Was I worth it though?

Absolutely. I don’t think I could’ve completed the semester without reading ahead as far as I did. It was an incredibly busy term and I’m quite thankful to past me for starting the readings before way, way, ahead of time.

Am I recommending you to read ahead the way I did?

Not in the slightest. I think it’d be beneficial for everyone to read ahead, that way you have leeway to fall back when you hit that week(s) during the semester where all the midterms and assignments come together. Reading ahead to the extent I did is unnecessary, but it might be helpful to those in a similar situation I was in.

Will I do it again?

Yes, but not in the same way. This next semester I’m going to start reading the required text for my (only) three psychology classes before the semester starts. I want to get ahead slightly in the same way I used to before last semester, though with less strain on myself during the first week. I find reading ahead extremely beneficial, and it reduces a lot of stress felt later in the semester. It leaves more room to have free time and also reduces pressure if you need to skip a reading for that week.

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