Ah, Spring Break.
That temporary respite from the daily grind of wake up, go to school, come home, do homework, go to bed, rinse, repeat. The impulse over spring break may be to just let it all hang out. Zone out in front of the TV and marathon Pretty Little Liars or The Walking Dead; sleep til 3 in the afternoon, swig some orange juice right from the container, and go back to bed.
For parents, you may think your kid has BECOME The Walking Dead. But listen up students (and parents), it’s important to try to resist the desire to become a zombie over Spring Break, no matter how tempting it is. Remember folks, college is just around the corner, and every year of high school is important. Spring Break is actually a great opportunity to get ahead on those college applications and start preparing early.
And here are four things you can do to use your non-zombie -like Spring Break wisely:
1) Visit Schools
If you’re a sophomore or junior or even a senior, Spring Break is a great time to go visit colleges. In some ways it’s an even better time than the summer to visit schools, because most college spring breaks aren’t at the same time as high school break. And that means you’ll be able to see the campus in ACTION, while students are milling around, doing their thing. So pick a few schools that aren’t too far from one another, and plan a road trip or a plane trip and do it up. Get a feel for the campus, go on tours of the school, see if you can sit it on a class or two, check out the dorms, and explore the college town to see how you feel there.
2) Plan for Summer Activities
You may be thinking, Summer break? But it’s not even spring break yet! Trust us, just go with it. Over the next few months you are gonna be soooo busy with schoolwork and finals that you are not gonna have ANY time to think about the summer, and before you know it, it will be end of June and you will have nothing lined up.
Why is this a big deal?
Colleges want to see that you’ve been taking personal initiative to develop leadership experiences, extracurriculars, and passions… and the best time to do this is the SUMMER. Summer is a great opportunity to take some control over your time, develop interesting (and essay-worthy) experiences, and do what is really interesting to you. And keep in mind, colleges are all about depth, not breadth. Taking one major interest and exploring the crap out of it is better than having a lot of experiences that are less meaningful. So start looking into, and planning, what you can do to nurture your deep interests. These may be established activities (summer job, volunteering, summer programs), or you may want to come up with something on your own. By giving yourself meaningful experiences that are deep and personal, you’ll have plenty of stories to choose from for your college resume, essays, and interviews.
And for those 6th-8th grade parents out there: as you’re planning out your student’s summer, encourage them to try new activities, or to develop a skill they really want to pursue. Don’t feel pressured into programs that are focused solely on academics. Sports, arts, even just totally fun-focused summer camps, are a great opportunity for your student to explore their interests and gain confidence in themselves. All of these things, if nurtured properly, can help them develop leadership skills now and in the future. And that will make summer planning in high school go a lot more smoothly.
Apart from planning activities for the summer, start thinking about making a list for the summer of books you’d like to read. More and more colleges are asking for a list of books you’ve read recently, and they mean books YOU chose, not books for school. So get on that, too. (We have some ideas.)
3) Get on top of spring test prep
Now, we don’t mean you have to visit colleges, plan the summer, AND study for all your tests over spring break. That would be crazy town. But before you know it, the school year will be winding down and you’ll be face to face with Mr. AP Calc and Ms. Advanced Chem Final and Senor SAT II Spanish. So get on top of your plan for studying. Decide which SAT IIs you’re gonna take. Register for the tests. Know when the dates are. Mark them on your calendar. Buy test prep books or enroll in a prep course or look into getting a tutor. Figure out your study plan and goals for the next few months. Being on top of it now is gonna do wonders for your scores and your stress level.
4) Get those literary juices flowing
Do some reading for pleasure to help you relax. And do some informal, personal writing. Start a daily journal to record your thoughts and experiences every day. Not only will it help you start gearing up for college essays, but writing a little bit every day helps to improve your writing skills, period. We’re talking about a skill that’s gonna follow you your whole life long. So start claiming it as your own now.
So if you start planning early and do these four things over spring break, you’ll be better prepared to tackle those college apps. But more importantly, you’ll have seriously contributed to your own personal growth….as a non-zomboid human being. Don’t forget, the race for college admissions is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t cram together a successful application a few weeks before it’s due. You need to prepare, train hard, and develop your skills and experiences – as we say, the best way to get ahead is get a head start. We’re here to help. Get at us.