Students and Christmas break conjure up all sorts of thoughts:  Christmas parties, family gatherings, comfortable couches, late mornings, late nights and an endless supply of festive goodies and excitement.  But in the middle of this more than wonderful hustle and bustle of the season, there within lies a sleeping giant.  This giant, if ignored, can be considerably unwelcoming as college approaches.  However, if greeted warmly, considered thoughtfully, this giant becomes your best-friend when it comes to college planning!

University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh

For both high school seniors and college students, the Christmas break can be a great time to think.  The challenge is finding and taking the time, the gift, and using it wisely.  It takes considerable discipline to be intentional about time over this break given the many things otherwise filling their space.  But the time they take to get away, answer some very important questions, pays a dividend that is worth it’s weight in gold.  That’s a gift that keeps on giving!

High school seniors are in a different place than their college friends.  While some have already received their acceptance to college, many are still in the middle of the application process.   It’s important for the high schooler to take this time to concentrate on that college essay.  While school is in session there are many distractions that occupy their attention and more often than not, the things that matter most often suffer most and take a back seat.  The exclusive time the senior takes to concentrate outside of a cluttered daily schedule could very well mean the difference between a good essay and a great one!  And when it comes to a college essay — quality matters!

Another place the high school senior who is still completing applications for college can spend some time asking some questions is regarding their test scores.  If they are content with their current score then they are propelled further down the road to completion.  If, however, they are not content, then it might be in their best interest to take the time to schedule for an upcoming ACT or SAT.  “What can be done to prepare to improve my score?” is a question to consider.

The other category of high school seniors are those who have yet to complete a single application because they have not identified a college of interest.  These seniors are in a completely different mindset throughout their Christmas break.  They should pause first, then just breathe.  Don’t panic!  This Christmas break is a perfect time to sit down and strategize.  There are many resources that can assist in this process and seeking wise counsel can make a huge difference.  Consider finding an IEC (Independent Educational Consultant) locally (http://www.hecaonline.org/Directory) to assist in this process!  Start by asking: “What am I looking for in a college?”  This is a great launching point that will develop into a plan.  Planning ahead is a great gift to yourself!

Coming home for the holidays for the first time since moving away to attend college can be a bit different for the college student — especially if their old bedroom has been transformed into the new workout room with a single treadmill.  College students should spend this holiday break still thinking about their college experience.  Self-evaluating their major fit, academic performance, satisfaction and ultimately, their college selection can be time well invested!  While many will determine early they are in the right place, there are many that know a change is in order.   Transferring can be a costly move at times, but if well calculated, it can be extremely economical in the long run.  No one can answer this question better than the college student who takes the time, away from the distractions of both the classroom and the season, to contemplate for themselves.

For the college student who is completely happy with where they are headed and the college experience has been extremely rewarding, the Christmas break can serve as a time to get involved.  There’s time for occasional periods of excessive rest, but for the most part, it is important for these students to give the gift of their time, skills and cheer to those in their community.  Offer to serve at a homeless shelter or at a local church — time is a precious gift!

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