Planning for college takes time, but you don’t always have time during the year with school, sports, volunteering, extracurriculars, competitions, and spending time with family and friends. This is why its so important to use your winter break wisely! Take advantage of the extra time you have to get a leg up on college-prep! You’ll be glad you did 🙂
PERFECT YOUR SYSTEM
Having all of your information from four years of high school written down and organized is the only way to ensure that filling out applications is not an overwhelming experience. The more organized your information, the less time it takes to fill out applications. The less time it takes to fill out applications, the more likely you are to apply – and you can apply for more scholarships with that time you save!
TIP: Ask teachers, parents, employers, community leaders and even friends to help you recall what you have done during your high school career. It is amazing the things that are often forgotten that could be included on an application.
Did you know that some applications will ask for attachments? Here are some examples of common attachments:
- Newspaper Articles
- Even small samples of artwork should be kept – the items you need to save will depend on your interests and activities.
If an application allows for attachments, take advantage of that opportunity by including a picture or a copy of any of these examples. A copy of a newspaper article about an extracurricular activity, sports achievement or community service project that you were involved in is a great addition.
All of these items should be stored together in one location. A storage container is a convenient and organized way to keep information that may be needed later. This will allow you to easily find these items when filling out applications.
BONUS TIP: Going through your storage container will also help you recall experiences that should be included on your application that you may have forgotten to record!
In addition to keeping track of these attachments, there are even more files and documents that you will need to save electronically. This makes it very important to have a well-organized digital filing system.
Need a Checklist for setting up your College-Prep System?
TACKLE THOSE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS
Finding scholarships you’re eligible for takes time. Then, you have to apply, and probably write an essay. It’s kind of like having a lot of extra homework, with one major exception: you can earn MONEY for college by taking this “homework” seriously.
Winning scholarships is a job.
In fact, if it takes you a total of 10 hours to find just one $750 scholarship, fill out the application, write the essay and submit all of the required materials, receiving that scholarship would mean you made $75 per hour! That’s way better than a part-time job (and many full-time jobs)!
Check out our recent post about where to ACTUALLY look for scholarships! Hint: don’t forget about those small local awards – they add up quickly!
Even if you’re not a senior, you can be searching and applying for scholarships. Our friends at JLV College Counseling do a wonderful job of compiling lists of scholarship opportunities for students of all ages!
REFLECT ON YOUR YEAR
The start of a new year means that it’s time for a little planning and goal setting. New beginnings give us the opportunity to reflect and dream about what we want to accomplish in the new year.Down time over winter break is the best time to think about what you want to accomplish this year.
- What are my passions and career aspirations?
- What can I do to build my resume and demonstrate who I am when it comes time to fill out those college and scholarship applications?
It’s also important to know that colleges love to see reflection in the essays they read. To help you practice reflection, we have created an End of Year Reflection exercise for you to think back on the last year and practice this essential writing skill.
Download our end of year reflection exercise!
When you’re done, let us know in the comments below what you’ve decided to focus on and how you will be challenging yourself this year!
NARROW DOWN THAT COLLEGE LIST
Whether you have already applied and you need help picking a college, or you’re just a freshman trying to figure out where to start: winter break is a great time to think about your college list. Creating your college list, narrowing down the options and prioritizing colleges by interest level and likelihood of acceptance takes time and patience!
Factors to consider:
- school size
- academic programs
- activities available to students
- campus culture and atmosphere
Take some time to journal over break about your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and questions about these factors. This will help you narrow that list down – and maybe even make a decision!
HAVE “THE TALK” ABOUT COLLEGE COSTS
Talking about finances can be uncomfortable, but it is so important to have honest conversations about college costs early on in the process.
What to discuss:
Make sure you’re on the same page about the schools you can afford. If your dream school is out of your budget, you still have options: work hard to find scholarships to cover the cost, or have a backup plan for a more affordable college that you would still enjoy attending.
FACT: Did you know that the tax information used to determine your college financial aid will be from your sophomore year of high school?
Analyze your financial situation:
For an in-depth picture of your college financial situation, use MyTuitionScore to find out where you stand on finances, scholarships, knowledge and more! They offer a FREE report, or you can upgrade to the full-access report for a detailed analysis of your students’ Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and an explanation of what this means and how it affects the total cost of attendance, your estimated amount of money needed at the time college will begin, a financial aid checklist, a college loan manual, and an analysis of the return on college investment upon graduation for up to 9 schools. Use promo code scholarprep25 for $25 off the full-access report!
ENJOY YOUR BREAK
Don’t forget to also enjoy the holidays and some quality time with friends and family this winter break – isn’t that what it’s all about?
Let us know in the comments below what your plans are for winter break!