Most high school seniors view winter break as the perfect opportunity to sleep and to socialize with family and friends. Of course, if you focus on everything but school, you may return to your classes feeling unproductive and anxious in regard to finishing your coursework, as well as preparing for graduation and college.
Although a bit of rest and relaxation is healthy for the often-stressed high school senior, it can greatly benefit you to spend your time wisely during your vacation. Complete these three tasks and you will feel energized and confident when returning to school in January:
1. Finish a portion of your homework each day
Your teachers may have assigned you various readings or projects to complete over your winter break. And though it can be tempting to procrastinate, it is also unwise – especially during senior year, when your grades matter most.
To avoid frantic hours of last-minute work, set a homework schedule and follow it. One good strategy is to spread out your assignments. That way, each task will seem less daunting.
Start by reviewing all of your assignments, and then estimate how much time it will take you to complete each one. Divide the total number of hours you will need to finish your work by the number of days in your break. The result is the amount of time you will need to spend on schoolwork each day.
Of course, if you know some days will be busier than others, apply more effort on the lighter days. You may also wish to calculate your daily homework time by omitting one day from the total length of your break. That way, you will hypothetically have all of your work done a day early, which allows you the opportunity to resolve any loose ends on the last day of your break if necessary.
2. Complete and submit your college applications
Each college has its own application deadline, with early action or early decision applications typically due in November and regular decision applications often due in January.
If you are applying to colleges via regular decision and have not yet submitted your applications, winter break is the right time to do so. Ensure all of your applications and supplemental materials – like test scores, letters of recommendation, and essays – are sent on time. Here are some tips on how to ask for a letter of recommendation.
Make a college application checklist and include the name of each college or university, its application deadline, and the required components of its application package. As you complete and send in your applications, check off the name of each school on the list. This will help ensure you do not miss a deadline or fail to include all parts of an application. Here is a college search tip on how to narrow down your application choices.
3. Get a head start on the college financial aid process
No matter how you plan on paying for college, it is worth filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These are 6 tips to maximize your search for financial aid.
This form is used by the United States Department of Education to determine your qualification for need-based financial aid. Depending on your financial and demographic information, you may qualify for loans, scholarships, and/or grants – all of which can help offset the costs of your education.
Incoming or continuing college students are required to fill out a new FAFSA form before the start of each academic year in order to qualify for federal financial aid. FAFSA forms become available each January and they should be submitted as quickly as possible.
Spend the last few days of your winter break familiarizing yourself with the FAFSA form, and show it to your family. Besides your information, you will need their personal and financial details, including federal tax returns, which can be a time-consuming process. Do both them and yourself a favor by getting started on your FAFSA as soon as the form becomes available.