Student winter break to-do list


For a lot of high school seniors, winter break means some time off of school, right in the middle of the academic year. Between family events, travel, holiday celebrations and chores, the time will fly. But this break from school can be really productive — without a lot of effort. After all, your student has been working hard all semester and could use a breather. Fortunately, the winter break college-prep to-do list is a short one. 

In keeping with the holiday spirit, your student’s winter break to-do list has the theme, giving and receiving.

Give notice

If your student has been accepted to the college of their choice, and there is no doubt they’ll be attending in the fall, then they should formally accept. Now is also a good time to notify the other schools they applied to and let them know they won’t be attending. This gesture may seem unnecessary, but it’s a great courtesy to those other schools. They can now give your student’s seat to another applicant. See how that works? 

Receive financial aid

OK, “receive” might be a stretch here, but it is a synonym for submit, so we’ll go with it. Your student needs to submit the FAFSA if they haven’t already. It’s easier than ever to fill it out, and even if you think your student won’t qualify for financial aid, you may be surprised. We’ve said it before. We’ll say it again. We’ll shout it from the mountaintops. Your student should fill out the FAFSA to see if they’re eligible for grants and scholarships, and they will need your help. 

Give thanks

There have likely been people along the way who helped your student throughout their college search. Counselors helped to keep them on track academically. Teachers wrote letters of recommendation. Employers granted them time off for college visits. Now’s the time for your student to acknowledge that it takes a village, and write thank you notes. These can be emails or handwritten cards — either is acceptable these days — but a little gratitude goes a long way. It’s a good exercise for your student, who will need to get in the habit of thanking the professors they’ll eventually rely on for references when they’re applying for scholarships and internships during college and for jobs after graduation.  

Give time

This time of year can be magical and it can be stressful. Wrapping up small details can make a big difference (and save time later) as they prepare for the home stretch. Here are a few items for your student to check off the list:

  • Make sure test scores are sent to the colleges of their choice.

  • Re-evaluate their college list and compare financial aid packages (if available).

  • Make a list of scholarships (and their deadlines) they could still apply for.

  • Research deadlines for housing, orientation and financial aid for the college they hope to attend. 

Finally, your student is preparing for exciting and possibly disappointing news. Early decision season can be a roller coaster for you and your family. If they get into the college of their choice, and they can afford to go, hooray! If not, they could be crushed. It’s time to celebrate good news and be ready for discouragement. 

Age and experience may have given you the perspective to know that a negative decision isn’t the end of the world. There are always other options and making the best of them can have incredible, life-changing results. According to experts, being there for your kid, acknowledging that their disappointment is valid, and then helping them carry on with a new plan are the best ways you can support them through this emotional process.

That’s it! Now, give yourself a pat on the back for coaching your kid through this exciting journey. It will be worth it.