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  • Michelle Silbernagel

Rest, Recharge, and Reflect

Tips for a balanced break in the midst of college planning.



puppy wearing a santa hat

Well-intentioned parents often begin holiday breaks wondering, “What should my student be doing with this extra time to prepare for college?”


Some obvious suggestions include: plan your standardized test strategy or research summer programs. Seniors may be finishing college applications. These are great tasks to tackle. But, the best way to recover from the past semester is to also make time to rest, recharge, and reflect.


Students and teachers are given this holiday “break” for a reason. While it may be tempting to create a list of tasks to complete over the next two weeks, remember we all need time to unplug. College admissions is all about balance - a balance in the college list, balance in time spent on academics and extracurriculars, and even balance during breaks.


Dr. Denise Pope, Challenge Success Co-Founder and Stanford Senior Lecturer, emphasizes the importance of resetting and reflecting over the winter break. In addition to taking a real break, she suggests taking the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work during the first half of the school year. If things weren’t going well, it’s time to make a change.


To paraphrase Albert Einstein,


If you want different results than what you’re getting, you have to try different approaches.

Dr. Pope suggests committing to one behavior or practice you want to change in the new year and even provides some actionable suggestions.


Renewable Energy


Some people are recharged by rest and downtime. Others find they are renewed by helping others. Here a few options to explore to recharge your batteries in the service of others.


Join in on DoSomething’s New Year New Us campaign

Explore ideas to act for the common good

Help others while at home

Tutor children virtually with TeensGive

Take action with other students


For those who are re-energized by achievement, tackle these tasks:


Draft a resume -- it will be useful for landing that first high school first job, requesting a letter of recommendation, or applying for summer internships.


Research summer opportunities or internships in your area of interest. Many summer program and internship opportunities have February or March deadlines. Find out what materials are required to apply and you will be ahead of the game.


Visit some colleges virtually. NACAC is hosting a virtual College Fair on January 31st. Sign up, check out colleges that interest you ahead of time. Many already have uploaded virtual materials.


For general academic knowledge...read! Fiction, non-fiction, online, or in-hand. Reading helps with vocabulary, understanding context and provides a window into the world -- real or otherwise. One of the most recommended suggestions for SAT/ACT prep is to read. Non-fiction reading comprises about 75% of the ACT and 80% of the SAT. Great non-fiction reading sources include national papers, such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic.


Wishing you all a balanced, safe, and healthy holiday season.

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