12 Days of Winter Break: How to Make Them Count

Most students across the country have a nice long break over the winter holidays. My own kids get 17 days off between now and New Year's! While my kids are still young and depend on me to keep them busy, high school seniors usually have their own plans and goals over the vacation.

If you are a high school senior or you know one, here's a guide on how to make the most of winter break:

Day 1

Consider your current college list. If you have plans of applying to some additional colleges, this is the time to do it. Many colleges with a Regular Decision round have a January 1st deadline. Students who were deferred or denied by their Early Decision or Early Action college usually end up applying to five to seven more colleges in the Regular Decision round.

Not all of those colleges will require additional essays, but if they have a highly selective admissions process more essays are usually in the mix. Plan to work on one application/supplement each day. Do the more time-consuming and challenging ones early on and leave the easy ones (no essays required) for the end.

Day 2

Tackle the most time-consuming supplement first. It will be obvious which one it is. You know, the one with a zillion short and long essays—all of which are required?! This supplement may take two days, though. One day to draft all of the essays and a second day to edit them.

Day 3

Edit and finalize the essays from college #1. Send off the application for college #1 and start working on college #2.

Day 4

Edit and finalize the essays for college #2. Send off the application for college #2 and work on college #3.

Day 5

Edit and finalize the essays for college #3. Send off the application for college #3 and work on college #4.

"Get the hard work out of the way early on and leave the easier #college applications for the end." TWEET THIS

Day 6

Edit and finalize the essays for college #4. Send off the application for college #4 and work on college #5.

Day 7

Edit and finalize the essays for college #5. Send off the application for college #5 and work on college #6.

Day 8

Edit and finalize the essays for college #6. Send off the application for college #6 and work on college #7.

Day 9

Edit and finalize the essays for college #7. Send off the application for college #7.

Day 10

Take a break.

Day 11

Think about which college is at the top of your list. If you were deferred, this is a great time to draft a letter to that college now that you have had time to let the decision settle. Check out my guide on getting deferred. It includes tips on what to include in the letter. If you have a new first choice college or didn't apply through an early round, draft an email or update to your top choice college. Express your desire to enroll there. Let the college know how interested you are in them and the reasons why.

Colleges don't like to take as many chances in Regular Decision as it will both increase their admit rate (which they want as low as possible) and decrease their yield rate (the percentage of students who accept the offer of admission). If a student makes it clear how much they want to attend the college, it can sometimes make a positive difference.

Day 12

Review your draft to the college of your choice. Make edits. And send it off!

No matter how many more colleges a student applies to, they should not leave it to the very end. With so many students applying on December 31st and January 1st, make sure to submit applications at least 24 to 48 hours in advance to avoid any issues. If a student is able to do a few hours (or less) of work on college applications each day of break, they will feel very accomplished when they return to school in the New Year. As much as we all need a little break from the daily grind, students won't regret the time they put into these Regular Decision applications weeks, months, or even years from now. Happy holidays to all of you!