Things to Do Over Winter Break: High School Juniors Can Start Preparing Now for College Admissions

Fall semester is winding down, and everyone has their eyes on the quickly approaching winter break. Of course, you should use some of your time over the break to relax and recharge after your semester, but high school juniors can also do your future self a favor by spending some time over your break doing a little preparation for your upcoming college search and admissions cycle. Here are some ideas to help you lay the groundwork to position yourself for success in your college admissions journey.

Plan Some College Visits for the Spring and Summer

The very best time to visit a college is when school is in session. That way you can see what the campus feels like when it is bursting with activity. During your winter break is a good time to get out your school calendar and your parents’ calendars to pick some days when your high school is not in session that you can travel to visit some colleges. This is a good time to visit different types of schools to see which are right for you. Try to visit a small campus, a large campus, a rural campus, and a city campus to see which is most appealing. If you can’t fit in all the visits that you would like in the spring, make some plans with your family to do some additional college touring over the summer. While the colleges will not be as bustling as the fall or spring semesters, it will still allow you to tour the college with a guide and hear from the admissions staff.

Get Serious about Your College List

Hopefully, you have already started thinking about colleges and have a long list of schools you are interested in learning more about. Your goal over the spring semester will be to narrow your long list to a list of 8-10 schools where you are a good fit and are interested in attending. Your college visits will help you narrow your list, but so will doing research about the colleges over the winter break. Take a look at the college websites, follow the colleges that most interest you on social media, sign up to be on their admissions mailing list, and begin to read about the programs they offer in your areas of interest. Consider the cost of attending the schools that interest you and begin conversations with your parents about paying for college. All these steps will help you shape your college list. Students who have invested the time to really think about what they want from college and what will make them happy and excited to learn at college have the very best outcomes in their college searches.

Get Those Extracurriculars and Honors in Order

As soon as you are done reading this blog, open up a file, call it “extracurriculars and honors,” and begin making a list of your activities and honors for each grade of your high school journey. Sometimes it is hard to remember something you did as a 9th grader while you are in the heat of application season as a high school senior. Spending some time now making a list and continuing to add to that list will help you organize the extracurriculars that you plan to include in your common and coalition applications. This list will also become the basis for developing your high school resume.

Speaking of Your Resume

Now is the time to make your first draft of your resume so that by the time you are applying for colleges in the fall (and scholarships and other honors), you will have a carefully written and edited resume ready to roll. Spend a little time (no more than 15-20 minutes) looking online at some examples of strong high school resumes. Don’t get caught in the rabbit hole of spending hours of time reading every single sample resume that you find. Getting an idea on what to include is really all you need. High school resumes can be a little more creative and fun than your basic first job resume. Canva has a free version with resume templates available. This is a way for you to add your own personal flare to your resume. Make it your goal to have a solid draft of your resume finished by the end of your winter break. That way you will have a description of you ready to share with the teachers you invite to write letters of recommendation for you.

Don’t Procrastinate Asking Your Teachers for Recommendation Letters

Smart students are using their holiday break to begin thinking about the teachers that know them the best to ask for letters of recommendation. Asking your teachers in the late spring before the end of school allows them time to craft a great letter for you and providing them with easy-to-read information about you will help them write a strong letter focused on your strengths. Remember that these teachers will have a deluge of students asking for recommendation letters in the fall. By asking early, you give them more time to provide you a thoughtful and effective letter. Some teachers limit the number of letters they can do in an application season, so asking early also helps you avoid disappointment because your favorite teacher has already met their letter limit for the fall.

College application season will be super busy for you, but you can help lessen the load on your senior year by using your time wisely now. Breaking up the admissions process into small steps helps you keep calm and show your very best self to the schools on your list. If you want some help working your way through this process, I am here to be your expert guide every step of the way. Contact me now for a free consultation.

Start early!