Thanksgiving break is different for everyone. For some, it’s filled with activities and of course too much food. For others, it may offer you a little downtime from your usual schedule. Regardless, we hope you will have a little extra time to spend with family this week.

We can’t think of a better time to sit down for just a few minutes to make a little progress on planning for college.

Here are 5 things you can do to take advantage of that little extra family time.

NOTE: This list was created for freshman, sophomores and juniors. If you’re a senior, you have probably already done a lot of this planning and now you should be focusing your time on filling out applications and finding scholarships.

1. Start a list of colleges you might want to visit or attend.

  • Having your college list started early will help you focus your energy during high school. This is a very important first step to figuring out what type of requirements you need to meet (standardized test scores, course rigor, level of involvement and achievement, etc…)
  • It is helpful to separate your list into categories:
    • Dream Schools (High Interest Level/Low Acceptance Rate)
    • Interest Schools (Moderate Interest Level/Average Acceptance Rate)
    • Safety Schools (Low Interest Level/High Acceptance Rate)

2. Explore careers or majors that might interest you.

This step will help you narrow down your college list. On top of this, once you narrow down your list of careers and majors you can search for scholarships specific to those areas. Here are a couple of helpful assessments:

3. Talk about how you will pay for college.

It is never too early to have a conversation about financial aid. Make sure everyone is on the same page about the type of school you can afford. If your dream school is out of your budget, you still have options: working hard to find scholarships to cover the cost, or having a backup plan for more affordable colleges that you would still enjoy attending.

4. Research colleges and admission requirements.

  • This goes back to the first step: making your college list. Research the schools on your list. Start tracking their admission requirements so that you will be prepared to apply your senior year. Then make sure you are tracking your activities throughout high school. Are there certain areas where you need to improve?

5. Start searching for scholarships.

  • Not only will this help you prepare for the scholarship application process that you will go through your senior year, you can also start earning money for college now. There a ton of scholarships out there for juniors, but there are others that are open to all high school students.

BONUS TIP: Before you start signing up for college search websites and submitting applications, sign up for an e-mail address that is professional. This is the one you will want to use for everything college and scholarship related. For instance:

Need a worksheet for your Thanksgiving Break College Planning?

Let us know in the comments below what progress you made over Thanksgiving break! Do you feel more prepared?