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The Checklist High School Seniors Need to Do Before Winter Break

The Harberson kids are counting down the days before Winter Break. They can't wait to walk out of school tomorrow afternoon to usher in the holidays.

Yet when that school door closes behind this year's high school seniors before the long break, it can mean that the college process is "on hold." That is because most high school counselors do not officially work over Winter Break and all admissions offices are closed as well.

However, most deadlines for Early Decision 2 and Regular Decision are the first week of January, sometimes as early as January 1st. Before heading out, I recommend that seniors put some plans in place just in case.

1. Connect with your school counselor about any remaining colleges you still need to apply to.

Depending on the high school's policy, your counselor could send required school materials (like the transcript and letters of recommendation) BEFORE you apply.

2. If you are considering an Early Decision 2 program, your counselor needs to sign the agreement form (just as you and your parents do).

Ask your counselor if they will be able to do this over the break if you haven't submitted your application yet.

3. Call the admissions office to find out if the counselor's form or school materials can arrive after the deadline.

Most private colleges expect the student to adhere to the admissions deadlines, but they can be far more lenient with the school materials arriving shortly thereafter.

4. If you have any questions for the college's admissions office, call now.

Most offices close on Christmas Eve and do not reopen until after New Year's Day.

5. Find out whether your counselor will be checking email over the break.

It's nice to know this advance!

READ MORE: My Holiday Wish List for College Admissions

I remember being an admissions officer between Christmas and New Year's. It was the one week of the year when I could truly unplug, as we had just finished the Early Decision round and we hadn't started to read the Regular Decision applications yet.
I also remember being a counselor at a high school this time of year. I did the opposite of "unplug." I was responding to emails from my students, fulfilling their transcript and recommendation letter requests, and submitting materials to colleges. But not all counselors are going to be working during this holiday season. When it comes to the college process, make sure to tie up those loose ribbons on your Christmas wreath and dot your menorahs and kinaras with candles and lights before Winter Break. When you do, your holidays will be merrier and brighter because you planned ahead!