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3 Ways for Juniors to Stay Productive Over Winter Break

Winter break is filled with all things merry—baking sweets, watching classic holiday movies (debatable whether “Die Hard” qualifies) and, if you’re lucky, playing in the snow.

For high school students across the country, it’s a much-needed and deserved break from schoolwork.

But. (Here it comes.) 

Winter break is also prime time for high school juniors to get ahead on their college prep.

For those eying up their collegiate prospects, it’s been a year of standardized tests, college visits and a nearly endless effort to impress on school transcripts.

While taking a breather from schoolwork comes with the territory, if you can summon just a smidge of motivation and turn it toward your college search, it can help propel yourself ahead of schedule.

1. Study for standardized tests.

I know, it sounds awful.

But now is the time to buckle down on studying for whichever test you’re going to take.

Think about how relieved your senior-year self will be when he or she isn’t stressing about taking the SAT or ACT.

Achieving your goal score within the next few months (the second semester of junior year) will give you the early opportunity to whittle down your list of prospective schools.

While certainly not the end-all-be-all of college admissions, your SAT or ACT score can help you narrow down your list and sort them according to the “Reach”, “Target”, and “Safety” method. 

2. Beef up your resume.

It’s not required material to have a resume heading into college.

But, it is nice to—at your own pace, while you’re not staring down the application deadline to an internship or job—create your first resume.

At it’s most basic, this exercise can help you stay organized with what activities and jobs you have participated in and held over the years. And when the time comes to apply, you’ll already have 90 percent done, with room for tweaks to fit to the internship or job to which you’re applying.

Why do it during winter break? 

It’s a relatively quiet time to reflect.

And, the break is also a good opportunity to actually add talking points to your resume.

Consider reaching out to respected professionals to learn about their careers, pick up a seasonal job for more experience, or take an online class to help you develop the skills you need to succeed in your college or professional career.

3. Double down on your college search.

The pandemic wreaked havoc on college tours, but there are still ways to explore your options.

Try a “virtual tour” to view campuses from the safety of your own home. These creative tours can provide students with a unique, first-hand opportunity to explore, though it does lack the spontaneity of an in-person visit.

Or, revisit Niche’s college ranking system. If you’re still early in the process, play around with Niche’s search tool to filter and rank prospective colleges by degree offerings, religious affiliation, selectivity and more.

Completing preliminary research before delving into the deeper stuff, like adding colleges to your Common App profile, can ease the process along and ensure that you’re being intentional, well-informed every time you add a new school to your list. Application fees are expensive.

It’s better to narrow down your choices early on so avoid over-applying—and overspending—later on.

Recharge, then Re-Engage

Winter break can be a time for rest and relaxation, but it can also be used for self-improvement and preparation.

Strike a balance of the two and you’ll feel equally refreshed and reinvigorated to finish your junior year and make headway in your college journey.

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Author: Jenna Spray

Jenna is a second year journalism student at Northwestern University with a concentration in law. She writes about fitness and relationships for Her Campus Northwestern and works on the corporate section of her school’s most popular magazine, North by Northwestern. In her free time, Jenna likes to sail, go to the gym, and eat pasta with her friends.