The Whole Versus the Individual
December 7, 2017

How High Schoolers Can Take Advantage of Winter Break: A 7 Step Guide

How should high school students spend their winter break? My experience is that students use their winter breaks to relax from the stresses of high school and spend a majority of their time with friends. While there is nothing wrong with that, the break could be used more productively for getting a head start on the college entrance process.

1. Begin your college search process:

You should start your college search process as soon as possible. It's beneficial to begin this process prior to taking the official SAT or ACT. The first step in your search should be to write down the most important characteristics a school of your choice must have (curriculum, size of school and campus, location, reputation, sports offered, entrance requirements, affordability, and any other factors you deem to be important). Next, write down the aspects of a school that you do not want it to have. This will provide you with a solid foundation for selecting the schools you wish to attend. Collegeboard.org makes searching for colleges relatively easy, but there will always be questions you have that websites may not answer. To avoid this, contact the schools directly to receive more specific information!

2. Seek a part-time job or internship:

Students who spend their free time working during their academic breaks, normally receive greater attention when applying for schools and career jobs. This shows admissions that you have the ambition to put yourself out there and learn. Don't search for an average high school job, search for something challenging but interesting. Think out of the box and do something no one else is doing. This can also help you develop an idea of what you want to begin studying in college. Not only will you grow your experience, you will grow your bank account.

3. Take extra-curricular classes:

There are many extra-curricular classes that are available for students to take during breaks. Many of these courses are targeted at sophomores and juniors who are beginning their college entrance exam prep, such as the SAT and ACT. You are not limited to just SAT and ACT courses; there are also other courses you can take that interest you and look good on your college application.

View Jump Start Tutoring's College Prep Offerings...

4. Create a list of goals for your first college semester:

Beginning college without a set list of goals will make you feel stranded, and not sure of where to begin. Setting milestones gives you direction for each of your decisions, whether it's a work decision or an academic decision. This is especially helpful when selecting your classes. As a college student you are basically given free reign over your education. Many students don't realize how much they miss when selecting an elective for an easy A over an elective that will further their academic experience. Write these goals down in a place where you will always see them; on your bathroom mirror, on your refrigerator, in your sock drawer; and don't hesitate to constantly revise them as you develop new thoughts. Doing this will continually remind you of what you're trying to achieve. It's like giving yourself subliminal messages. 

5. Reach out to teachers, guidance counselors, professionals, and any other people who know you well enough to write a good recommendation letter:

Good letters of recommendation can make a big difference for students applying to colleges. They enhance your application while also supporting your academic abilities and skills. Be careful who you select to write your recommendations; you want to ask those who know your strengths and weaknesses and can make a positive assessment of you. Anyone who can describe your uniqueness and excellent qualities is a good choice.

6. Create or update your resume/LinkedIn:

You should begin creating a professional presence. Colleges and employers will have limited amounts of sources to understand who you are. LinkedIn is a great way to begin networking with admission counselors and students at your prospective schools. LinkedIn will get you into the routine of posting professional and clean content on a social media platform. On top of having a clean profile, you want to complement it with an in-depth and organized resume. There are many professional resume templates on the internet to help you get started. If you have a limited work history or none at all, the best way to start is to outline your academic career, extra-curricular activities, relevant classes, clubs/organizations, interests and any other experience you have that will set you apart from everyone else. The primary goal is to brand yourself with professionalism. Ultimately, you're competing with thousands of other students, so take advantage of your unique qualities and interests to make you a better candidate for admission.

7. Read, read, read:

In addition to the above recommendations, you should read books to stimulate your brain and prevent it from becoming drained. Researchers have found that reading can reduce stress and improve critical analysis skills. The second most important thing to reading, is what you read. Pick something that will help you at a given time. If you have just come home from a long day and don't want to really strategically think, picking a read for entertainment may be your best bet. If you want to educate yourself, pick a topic that interests you.

Check out The Importance of Reading...

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