The holiday season is here, and all across the country, high school students are enthusiastically counting off the days between the long Thanksgiving weekend and their Christmas break. And while a little ‘downtime’ away from the rigors of academia is a good thing, totally bailing on school work isn’t. Things like class assignments and college applications don’t vaporize just because it’s the holiday season. When it comes to school vacations and assignments, striking a balance is important.
"If kids are excelling in school, they don't want to fizzle out now, and if they've been struggling … now [is] the time that they really need to step up to the plate," advises Jennifer Bernstein, a college professor and the founder of the college advisory service, Get Yourself Into College.
But how do you create a strategy that keeps you on track and allows for you to partake in holiday celebrations and some well-deserved R & R? Well, according to a recent article in U.S. News and World Reports, it all starts with a plan.
1. Map it out: Holidays are hectic, and time can slip away before you know it.
"Make a list, check it twice, then make your plan of attack," counsels a Los Angeles-based life coach who specializes in organizing teenagers.
If you create a realistic schedule that allows you to meet your commitments, you won’t get bogged down and overwhelmed, and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the delights of the season. Get a head start by sitting down now, and taking a complete inventory of all your school-related commitments from now right through the first two weeks of the New Year. Make sure you include dates assignments are due, exam schedules and deadlines for college applications -- then put it on a calendar. Online calendars are a terrific tool, and using one like Google Calendar can allow you to share it with friends and family, so they can help you stay on track.
2.’Tis the season: This is a special time of year, so try to use the excitement of the season as a motivational tool. In addition to coming up with a sensible approach to your academic commitments, what else can you do to make your break a positive experience?
For many high schoolers, the vacation can be the perfect time to explore some volunteer options in their communities. Service learning opportunities not only help college-bound students build their resumes, often these experiences can open the door to career options. And giving time to a good cause during the holiday season can have a high ‘give back’ quotient.
3. Keep focused on the future: For high school seniors, this is the perfect time to round up those letters of recommendation, finish your college essays and complete applications and get a handle on financial aid options, including making sure your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is filed. As for high school juniors, this is the perfect time to start seriously launching your college search. Most colleges and universities have websites that include virtual tours, allowing you to refine your list of possible schools without leaving home. And for younger students, this is the ideal time to explore possible summer internships and other summer options.
"It's an opportunity for them to reflect on … [how] they will continue to explore themselves and their interests while building a strong collegiate profile," says one advisor.
So this holiday season, give yourself the gift of a plan -- one that includes meeting your academic obligations and making time for fun. That way, you’ll be ready for the New Year.