Winter Break: Organize your college game plan

High school seniors should take advantage of their winter break to invest in their future. While it’s a time to relax and have fun, it’s also an opportunity to organize materials for college applications and scholarships to avoid stressful late nights and looming deadlines.

Here are a few tips recommended by advisers at Western Oregon University:

  • Ponder your next step. Reflect on where you see yourself after high school. Going to college? Taking a gap year? Working? Keep a journal, go for a drive, take a walk or do a favorite activity that allows you to think about your future. While many well-meaning people will be offering you their opinions, find a trusted friend or relative to share your thoughts.
  • Plan the “tough talk” with your parents/guardians/family. Part of your journey into adulthood is learning how to discuss finances and plan a budget. Ask your parents/guardians what your family can afford to pay for college. By having the conversation now, you’ll have time to find scholarships, get a part-time job or discover other options to cover college costs or select an affordable college that you would enjoy attending. Make sure you have completed your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA).
  • Review your college choices. Narrow your list of potential colleges to your top three to five choices. Create a spreadsheet to record your thoughts on each college’s academic programs, size, location, activities available to students, campus culture and atmosphere, and cost. Imagine yourself at each college and consider where you would feel most at home or supported. While you don’t have to decide on a major, make sure the college has at least three fields you would be interested in pursuing.
  • Plan college visitations. After you narrow your list, visit those colleges and think about how each place meets your criteria. Western Oregon University has campus tours during winter break as well as other times during 2020.
  • Know the deadlines. Create two calendars to track deadlines for college and scholarship applications.
  • Letters of recommendation. Asking for a letter of recommendation takes advance planning. Make sure you provide the letter writer the deadline, background information and where the letter should be sent. Make it as easy as possible for the letter writer to complete the task.
  • Start the process. Begin filling out the applications to your top college choices. You don’t have to complete them in one day. You can work on it and then come back to it another day. Make a list of everything you need to submit your application.
  • Do a social media check. Take a critical look at your social media accounts and make sure there isn’t anything that may prevent you from being admitted to the college of your choice. You don’t want to have anything that portrays you in an unflattering light.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering shows you care about others and want to make a difference in your community. It’s also something to add to your resume. Volunteer opportunities for teens in their community include a food bank, church, school civic groups, hospital, animal shelter and library.
  • Hard work pays off. The work you do during winter break will equal less stress during the last few months of your high school career.


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