30 Dec

Four Productive Ways to Spend Winter Break

Its not often that your student gets a solid two to four weeks with no academic obligations. Here are a few ways your child can take advantage of that free time.

1. Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships are NOT just for high school seniors, so all high school and college students should take advantage of winter break to apply for private scholarships. Your child should begin by compiling a list of mainly local and regional (and a few carefully selected national) scholarships targeted to his or her characteristics (leadership, volunteering), hobbies (art, cooking, sports, music, etc.) and other unique characteristics (does he/she have a twin, a unique medical condition, a diverse ethnic background, is a family member part of a company or organization that offers a scholarship ?). Taking the time to compile your own list will usually increase your child’s chances of winning than using an online scholarship search database such as FastWeb since you will be more likely to identify more regional scholarships that have less competition.

Once students have a list–which should be organized by due date so they don’t miss a deadline–they can begin filling out applications. Oftentimes a single essay can be used for several scholarships if students make only minor edits, so be sure your student spends time reading through each application’s essay prompts before starting–it could be a big time saver.

2. Get a Jump on SAT/ACT Prep

With no homework to occupy their time, high school sophomores and junior can use some of winter break to prepare for the all important SAT or ACT test. There are dozens of inexpensive ways to get started, from iPhone apps to free online practice tests. SAT prep books can also be a great resource if your student has the discipline to consistently work through the material.  Repeatedly taking practice tests has consistently proven to be one of the best ways to prepare.

Winter break is also the perfect time to take an SAT preparatory course. You may want to compare prices and courses among the national providers such as Kaplan, Sylvan and Princeton Review along with your local study centers and individual tutors.

3. Make College Visits

If local colleges similar to your student’s top choice colleges are still in session, winter break could be a great opportunity to take a look around. As I’ve mentioned before, looking at college campuses similar to far-away potential choices can give your child a sense of what that type of school (large/small, public/private, etc.) is like, without having to shell out big travel fees or spend days in a car or on a plane. If you have the time, you may want to make a quick trip to one of the schools your child has applied to.

4. Earn Extra Money for College

Time off from school is a great opportunity for your child to earn a few extra dollars for college costs–and a traditional job is definitely not the only option for winter break money-making. Aside from applying for scholarships, students can work for mom and dad or grandparents, house-sit for traveling neighbors, or take on a temporary job with a retailer hiring for the holiday rush. For more details and ideas about how your child can get to work, take a look at this article on 5 ways for students to earn money over winter break.

All the best,
Deborah Fox

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