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What Should My Teenager Do Over Holiday Break for College Apps?

For a lot of high schoolers, the holiday break can be an excellent time to prepare for college, even if you’re only a freshman. Send our tips to your child on how to spend each year of high school wisely to impress college admissions.

Freshman

JOIN ORGANIZATIONS! You have spent the first semester settling into a larger work load and making friends. You’ve experienced the Homecoming hype. Now, it’s time to become aggressive. Make a game plan of which organizations on and off campus that you are most passionate about. The earlier you join, the easier it is to gain credibility among its members. Nobody will elect a newbie for president; they want somebody who has shown at least a full year of dedication to its cause. You will have more leverage to turn your leadership goals into reality.

Remember that just “joining an organization” is not enough. Everybody can do that and slap it on their college application. You want to come in with ideas or offer the most help during events to really shine through. If you cannot have a conversation with somebody about your actual involvement, then you are not really an involved student.

Organizations are also a great way to make friends that have similar interests to you. People who are more involved on campus usually hold higher standards for themselves. Surrounding yourself with students who work hard will not only create positive peer pressure on you, but it will also expand your network for the future.

Need another reason to not procrastinate on becoming involved? College admissions officers have seen everything. They can spot the senior who joined a club to bulk up their application. Embarrassing! But they also notice the freshman who didn’t use his or her year as time off “to adjust.”

Sophomore

FIND YOUR FOCUS! If you’re sophomore year will be anything like what mine was, it will be the year of the homework. Being involved is great, but doing too much can make you scattered and lower that GPA. Not worth it!

This is the time to prioritize every aspect of your life with a lot of self-reflection. Ask yourself: Which organizations am I most passionate about? Is my part-time job consuming valuable homework time? Am I making enough time for social activity and me-time, so I won’t get burned out with too much school?

If you do not feel strongly about any organization on campus, consider dropping all of them and attempt to create your own club. Think about it: A student who wants to be a future journalist will let college admissions know he or she was a member of his school newspaper. That’s awesome, but so will every competing applicant. But what if you had a bigger story to share like how you made a competing newsletter? That would definitely make your application stand out.

By now, your commitment should be for two clubs and doing some type of service opportunity at least twice a month. Stick to that schedule like you would your academics. You want to show that you have consistency in all aspects.

Junior

HONE YOUR SKILLS! Have you uncovered a hidden talent? Are you really good at history? Do you think you might like a major in science? This is the perfect time to narrow your focus even more with pursuing talents, hobbies, and subjects that you can picture yourself having a career in.

Now, I do not want to encourage you to remove things from your life just because they are seemingly worthless to college admissions. If they are important to you, then it is essential to your happiness to keep them around. But, if you do well in a beginner graphic design class, you should consider taking intermediate. If you enjoy YouTube, make time to grow your online presence.

If you do not know what your talented or skilled at, it’s okay. At that age, I always felt average at everything and did not know what I liked enough to pursue. I was so scared of investing time into something that I would be forced to stay in because that would be my niche that defined me. And another part of me felt like I would never be good enough, so I didn’t try. The point is to always try and don’t let failure discourage you. Sometimes you stumble on the greatest things in life on accident.

Senior

NEVER GIVE UP! During the last year of high school, everyone seems to catch senioritis faster than the flu. Graduation and then college are so close. You might already be tired of the cafeteria food, your classes, or even your friend group. All of these are normal reasons to look forward to the future, but that does not mean you have an excuse to stop everything.

Balance your time and be choose-y with your activities. This does not mean quit your sports team or disappear from that club you have always gone too, but you also need to dedicate an ample amount of time to write your college apps. The best thing to do is communicate with your teachers who might be able to give you extended time on an assignment to make a college deadline.

Finishing strong is an incredibly tough challenge, especially when you have already accepted enrollment into a college. However, some institutions ask for your last semester grades to make sure your GPA remained up to their standards. Imagine getting into your dream school to have that all slip away by one semester? Not worth it! Finish strong!

And P.S.

Always try to build a relationship with teachers starting your first year. You will need recommendations for all kinds of future applications for college admissions, scholarships, and resumes.

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