Make the Holidays Productive
By Meri Kock
The extended winter break has arrived, finally! So, how should you spend the couple of weeks away from school? Some of my suggestions may be unexpected, but I hope they serve you well. Others will be somewhat traditional, but there’s a reason they exist.
1. Turn off your alarm clock. Yep, you heard me, turn off your alarm clock. I do not want you to sleep all day everyday, but I do want you to rest. If you’ve been keeping focused on your goal of maximizing your education and the opportunities it can present, you may be a bit tired. Allow yourself to rest, but do not take it to extremes.
2. Build positive relationships. Find those people who have had the greatest positive impact on you and spend time with them. They’ll keep you inspired and moving forward. In turn, it’s also a good time to be setting a positive example for someone who may be looking up to you and you don’t even realize it. Be true to yourself, do what is right, and encourage those around you to do the same.
3. Try something new. The holiday season presents a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, try one or more of them. Do it for altruistic reasons, but don’t be surprised if you find a calling, or perhaps something you enjoy doing just for the sake of doing it.
4. Write thank you notes, real ones. Yes, it’s easy to type out a quick email, but emails won’t be treasured as much as a handwritten note. Your handwriting, and the time you took to write the note, will mean more to the recipient than what you can imagine. And don’t limit your thank-you notes only to those who gave you a gift. Send notes to people who have done something for you (letters of recommendation, reference forms, gave you an encouraging word at a time you really needed it, etc.)
5. Do something outside. It might be cold, but getting some fresh air and getting moving will help keep the cobwebs from forming in your brain. Something as simple as just taking a walk around your neighborhood or in a local park has many benefits. Do it daily if possible, you’ll feel great.
6. Check your college deadlines. Hopefully you’ve already submitted your applications, but there may be other deadlines looming. Check for spring deadlines that may need to be met for housing, mid-year follow up transcripts or forms, financial aid, scholarships, etc.
7. Fill out your FAFSA form online, but not until after Jan. 1. Enjoy the New Year’s Day football games and parades, but on Jan. 2 sit down with your parents/guardians and complete the FAFSA form. Please do this even if you think you won’t qualify for any financial aid, you never know what you might receive. Also, there are some merit-based scholarships that require FAFSA information. IMPORTANT: Make certain you’re going to the correct site, www.fafsa.ed.gov. Do not, under any circumstances, pay anyone any money for completing your FAFSA. It’s called the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid, with the key word being FREE.
8. Reset your body clock as the return to school comes closer. Yes, I know I said to turn off your alarm clock, but if you’ve developed the habit of staying up until 2 a.m. and sleeping until noon, you’ll need to break that habit quickly. Plan ahead several days, go to bed slightly earlier each night, and make yourself get up earlier each day, until you’re close to the normal hours you need to keep to perform your best at school.
9. Do some reading. If your English teacher has assigned a novel, read it. Tackle it a chapter or two (or more if it’s a longer book) a day. Keep a reading journal where you summarize what happened in each chapter. If you don’t have an assigned novel, read one anyway. Keeping your brain stimulated will help you perform better during the next term.
10. Reflect, review, and revise. Reflect on the previous year taking note of what went well, congratulate yourself for your accomplishments, and reminisce about happy events. Review the goals you set for the current school year to determine if you’re still on track. Revise what you’ve been doing if the results haven’t been what you had hoped, or if you find that you drifted off course.
Have a wonderful break. Celebrate the close of one year and the beginning of a new one. Be smart, stay safe, and have fun.