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    6 College Tasks to Complete over the Holiday Breaks

    Posted November 26, 2014, 3:00 pm by Suzanne Shaffer
    things to do over winter break

    Thanksgiving is upon us and that means winter break is quickly approaching. Even though it may be just a few weeks, college-bound students should take advantage of their time and use it for some college prep activities. Seniors especially can’t afford to waste precious time with regular admission application deadlines approaching with the New Year.

    Here are six activities for the college bound over winter break:

    1. Search for scholarships

    Holiday breaks are the perfect time to focus on scholarship searches. Set aside just a few hours every day to research and hunt for them. You can use search engines like Google or delve even deeper by registering on one of the many scholarship websites like Zinch or FastWeb. The benefit of registering is you will receive email reminders when a scholarship you qualify for becomes available; giving you a head start on the application process.

    2. Prepare for the FAFSA

    If you are a senior, this is the perfect time to prepare for the FAFSA that becomes available on January 1st for the upcoming fall semester. Remember: the early bird gets the worm and those who complete the FAFSA early are more likely to snag some of those merit aid scholarships and grant dollars.

    3. Make an information gathering college visit

    Winter break is a good time for college-bound teens to visit a college—any college. You can walk around campus and get a feel for what college life will be like. Since students will be on break as well, this visit should be for information gathering only. If you’re a senior, make a final college visit to the schools you will be applying to. It will help you decide when the offers of admission arrive.

    [Search for colleges on TeenLife.]

    4. Spend (productive) time on social media

    The key word here is “productive.” While you’re on Twitter and Facebook, do some scholarship searches and make some college contacts. Research college Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and while you’re at it sign up on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is now focusing on adding student profiles and it’s a great place to network and meet professionals affiliated with the colleges you are interested in attending.

    5. Work on the college essay

    The college essay is the most important component of the college application. It’s never too early to start working on the college essay. If you’re a senior, finish up your final draft. Have it proofread and read before you submit it to the colleges. If you’re not a senior, use the break time to brainstorm ideas.

    According to one admissions officer, “Writing a good application essay is hard. Many students write essays that are too cliché or too shallow; others write essays that are impersonal and uninformative; some are even unfortunate enough to write essays that cause their own rejection. This isn’t surprising. The application essay is drastically different from the typical high school assignment—deeply personal, rather than merely informative.”

    [An Independent Advisor can help with your college applications!]

    6. Complete your college applications

    Regular or rolling admissions candidates should be finalizing their applications to submit before the first of the year. Submitting before the deadlines puts you on the top of the stack when admissions officers begin examining applications and reading essays. Dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s before you hit submit. Proof every aspect of the application while you have the time and aren’t distracted with regular school work.

    Even though you may be wishing you can just chill out and relax over the holiday breaks, you should be taking advantage of the extra time and lack of academic responsibilities. Allocating just one hour a day to spend on college-related activities will prepare you for the rest of the year and all it brings. If none of these activities interest you, check out our list of summer activities for the college bound. Many of these can also be done during the winter breaks.

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    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parenting for College blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.