Tips for a Useful Winter Break for College-Bound High School Seniors
Winter break is a great time for students to relax, but for college-bound high school seniors, it can be used to catch up on all the big decisions that will be made in the spring.
"Winter break, heading into the holidays your senior year is a really good time to just take a breath, step back, make sure that you've gotten applications and materials in that you need to apply for, things upcoming in the spring that you need to apply for," says Brian Jones, Minnesota State University's Director of Admissions, Brian Jones.
For some decisions there is no right or wrong answer, including the college students choose to attend.
"One of the dirty little secrets that I like to dispel the myth of, is that there's one place that you absolutely have to pick the right college, or your life is over and the reality is there's probably a lot of places that are the right fit for a student," says Jones, "if students are going through the process and thinking about what's important to them. If they know a major or at least where they want to be and what the cost is and if that campus fits in with what's important to them, there's a lot of right choices."
Doing everything in a timely fashion and checking email is key to a successful college transition.
"Whether it's a high school or a college, there's times over the holidays when faculty and staff aren't around so if you need to get a transcript sent or you need to get somebody to write a letter of recommendation for you, respecting the fact that they're not there at your beck and call and it's not something they can necessarily turn down in a heartbeat," says Jones, "another thing to keep in mind is that email is the primary way that colleges are going to be in contact with students."
"A big part of these five tips is putting students in the position to be a quarterback and having options in front of them instead of getting stuck with what's left or what campuses or parents or somebody else tells them," says Jones, "really having all the options laid out in front of them and getting to make a good choice that they feel good about."
List of the full five tips:
1. Turn everything in – applications for admission, scholarship applications, etc. Even if there are no deadlines or if the deadlines are later in the year you should get these things done now so that you can focus on choosing the right school in the spring.
2. Get in line – Make sure to have the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) submitted to the federal processor and reserve a space with on-campus housing. Need-based financial aid dollars and the most popular residence hall rooms get awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. You’ll will want to have the most and best options available when deciding where to enroll.
3. Check your email – Colleges send lots of mail and email and some of it is critically important. Go back through all of your email accounts to make sure you didn’t miss an important message from your school of choice. There might be a deadline or scholarship opportunity that slipped past when you were busy studying for your math test that you don’t want to miss out on!
4. Plan a follow-up visit – The winter and spring are going to get really busy during your senior year so it’s good to have a plan. Think hard about what other information you need to make a decision: information about the major you’re interested, trying the food in the cafeteria or figuring out just how far of a walk you will have to class in the winter. Then plan another visit to campus and schedule a meeting with a faculty member, eat lunch in the cafeteria and take a tour or walk around during a different season of the year.
5. Work smarter, not harder – It is very difficult to do all of these things at 10 different colleges. You need to get serious about narrowing your choices and limit yourself to your top two to four schools. You have to make a decision eventually and it will be easier to get the follow-up information you need about a limited list of potential options.