College Steps on Winter Break

Students are counting the minutes to the long-awaited winter vacation. While many relish the thought of a well-deserved break from school work, savvy students are using the time to think ahead and make progress on their college journey.

What are the specific steps that juniors and sophomores can take during these upcoming two weeks? Here are some suggestions.

Test Prep - this is the time to assess test prep progress and to register for the January or February SAT or ACT.  This allows students to continue prepping for the March or April tests as the second go around.  Ideally, juniors want to get the tests out of the way by the end of spring so that there is no need to repeat any exams in the fall.  Seniors will need to focus on final campus visits and on honing their essays and completing applications in the fall semester.

Subject tests:  another good reason to take the SAT/ACT earlier is to allow time in the spring for SAT subject tests which are required at some of the more selective schools, and a good idea to boost applications in general.

Social Media - this is also a perfect opportunity for students to clean up social media. Remove inappropriate photos, posts, comments and "unfollow" people or groups that  you do not want a college to know about. Yes, Big Brother is watching and college admissions personnel are looking at students' online persona.

College Research - whether you've begun compiling a college list or not, the college search involves research. Spend time on college websites and search engines to learn as much as you can in order to determine if a college merits a spot on your list. [See blogpost from November ~ Building the College List.]

Schedule campus visits - waiting until spring break is probably the biggest mistake that juniors and their parents make. There simply isn't enough time in two months to visit as many schools as students need to see given today's admissions landscape. Each year, admissions committees place greater emphasis on a student's "interest" in a given college and there is no better way to "demonstrate interest" than by spending time on campus in a meaningful way. It can make or break an application.

Typically, colleges are back in session by the end of January, sometimes earlier, so there is no reason not to schedule trips for the winter months. Most schools have tours on weekends and it is worthwhile asking about hotel discounts for prospective high school students.

College Guidance – All of the above can sound, and feel, overwhelming. It is the role and mission of independent college counselors to make the college journey as manageable as possible while still insuring success. Prioritizing all of the steps and keeping students on track, and focused, not only make life easier for students, it’s a tremendous peace of mind for parents.