Expert Tips: Plan for a Productive Holiday Break

While sleeping in, playing video games, and Facebooking maybe calling to you over the Winter Break, there is still plenty of time for college-bound students to do something productive toward their college goals.


Have you put together a résumé? If not, start now! It doesn’t have to be something fancy or even well formatted. Simply start a list of activities, honors, and community service, along with appropriate dates. This is something to build on throughout high school and will save you time three years from now when you’re completing college applications. Pulling your résumé together now will also help you identify any gaps and make a plan to fill them before you run out of time at the end of the junior year.

If you don’t take your first semester exams until after break, get organized for studying now, so you are set for success.


You are now likely feeling settled into high school life. It may be a good time to start thinking about college. Using SuperMatch can help you get a feel for what colleges are out there, as well as the average GPA and ACT or SAT scores admitted students have. Check your own grades and see how you measure up.

Traveling? Stretch your legs by walking through a college campus. Sure, it’s likely a ghost town, with students out for the break, but you’ll get a feel for the size, location, and architecture of a campus, which will help you begin to decide what you like—and what you don’t.


Analyze your PSAT scores, which you are likely going to receive from your high school just before heading into the break. If you’ve also taken the PLAN test, compare the two to get an idea of whether you should be taking the ACT or the SAT; all colleges accept either test. Choose the test which matches your individual strengths.

College-entrance testing must be started in the junior year. Pull out your calendar and make a plan for when you will test. LEAP recommends students plan to test at least twice on EITHER the ACT OR SAT. Were you aware that 57 percent of students raise their score on a second attempt? You’ll also need to check whether your schools of interest will require or recommend SAT Subject Tests, which you’ll need to allow time for in your schedule. Some colleges will allow you to substitute ACT scores for SAT Subject Tests.


Apply for your FAFSA PIN. Each student applying for federal financial aid for college should do so in January. The PIN is required and needs to be requested in advance.

Scour the Web for scholarships and plan to apply for one or two over break. Fastweb is a favorite site for finding scholarships.

Even if you do a few of these, you’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy some down time with family and friends!


This article was written by Lisa Mader

Lisa Mader relies on extensive teaching experience, a master's-level education, and affiliation with some of the industry's most important accreditation boards to help college-bound students maximize their performance and find their best-fit college. Through her company LEAP, Lisa has helped countless families in the areas of test preparation, college selection/application, choosing a major and future career, and much more.

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