By Aimee Nemeth

It’s time to pull on that winter coat and thaw out the holiday turkey, winter break is almost here.  

This year, our juniors in high school have asked us at Parros College Planning what can they do to get the most out of their Winter Break.  Our answers to this question vary from family to family, but there are tons of opportunity to do more than nap on the couch for the full two weeks.  

This is really a great time for students to use this time to help them when it comes to applying to college. There are so many things students can do during their two-week break that can put them in a successful position for their upcoming college career.

Tim Parros, of Parros College Planning advises to: “Always keep your eye on the prize.  Winter Break is a time to rest a little, but the marathon isn’t over. Colleges are always watching what students do during their entire high school career.”

1) Travel Abroad: This one might take a little planning before the holiday season, but if you have the opportunity to take some time out of the country, do it!  Traveling abroad not only is a fun way to integrate a new culture into your life, you can also hone your language skills, meet new friends, and experience exciting adventures outside of your comfort zone.  

It’s a no-brainer why traveling abroad is so encouraged in young people, it develops a relationship with the world that you can’t achieve in any other way.  

2) Get a job: Perhaps you don’t want to burden yourself with unnecessary borrowing from financial aid, or you’d like a little more spending cash to treat yourself after your first set of college finals.

Regardless, there are a lot of benefits to taking the time to work a part-time job while you’re on break from school.  There’s the obvious perk of extra money, but what about the incredible work ethic you’re creating for later in life? Not to mention, you will gain new skills for your resume, meet new people, and you’ll be able to show colleges that you’re a mature, responsible person; that certainly doesn’t hurt!  

3) Prepare for your College Applications: A good number of students make the mistake to postpone their college applications/preparations until after the holidays, but gathering the required materials and organizing your list of potential schools should be at the top of your priority list during your break.  Between test scores, recommendation letters, application essays, and transcripts, there are so many elements to get under control before students can apply to college.

“Students can get very overwhelmed if they don’t pace themselves during the application process.  Junior year is already incredibly hectic,” Lisa Schmidt, Parros College Planning’s college counselor, reminds students and their families.  “Space each step out and make thoughtful decisions each step of the process. Don’t just throw it all together at the last second.”

Don’t let the stress build up.  Take one of the days of your break, sit down, and get everything together.  Trust us, you’ll feel a lot more confident about the process when you’re a step ahead of the curve.  

4) Write a Few Scholarship Essays: Did you know there’s a private school that offers a huge scholarship for left handed students?  Or maybe you’re a first-generation college student that needs a little extra money for textbooks?

There are literally scholarships for everything out there, you just need to take the time to track them down and apply!  What better time than between Home Alone marathons and mom’s famous hot cocoa? Since you’ve already gotten all of your materials ready for your college applications, go ahead, plop yourself down on the couch and stretch your typing fingers, that free money won’t find itself.

5) Volunteer: The holidays bring about a magic that puts people in the giving spirit.  Join in on the fun and volunteer with a local charity or shelter. There are so many people who go without during the holiday season, and a lot of community services are swamped with requests.  You’ll feel good about your contribution and know that you’ve dedicated your time to changing people’s lives.

6) Unwind with loved ones: You’ve triple checked your scholarship essays, you’ve organized all of your college application materials, and all of your obligations are completed; you’ve earned some time to kick back and relax.  Be sure, at the end of the day, you spend some quality time with friends and family during this holiday break. In the next few years, you’re going to be engaged in a flurry of activities, and you might not be able to find time to come home for the holidays.  Make sure you let your local friends know that you love them and give your mom an extra hug, “just because”.

We at Parros College Planning love to help all of our students and families to have a productive break period.  There’s no need to feel overwhelmed, and we can point you in the right direction to ensure that your time is spent as efficiently as possible.

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