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(Mostly) Productive Ways to Spend Winter Break


Posted by Carolyn Pippen on Friday, December 20, 2013

Kirkland Hall prepares for the holidays with a light dusting of December snow. (Vanderbilt University Flickr)

For a high school senior in the middle of the college application process, winter break might not seem like that much of a break.  Between submitting your applications, trying to stay in touch with teachers and counselors, recovering from finals, and preparing for the spring semester, some of you might feel just a tad stressed out.

Trust me when I say that I understand, and I’ve been there.  Although I know the stress won’t truly end until the fat lady sings, there are plenty of ways to spend the coming weeks that will allow you to feel both productive and refreshed for the new year.

And so I would like to present my best suggestions for 14 Things to Accomplish before 2014:

  1. Complete your Vanderbilt application and set up your MyAppVU account.  Okay, the first suggestion is a pretty stressful one, but just think about how relieved and accomplished you will feel when that application status reads “Complete!”
  2. Contact your admissions counselor if any questions or issues with your application arise.  Though many of us may be slower to answer over the next week or two, we are all still here to guide you through this process is any way we can.  If you get an out-of-office reply from your counselor and you have an issue that needs immediate attention, you can email admissions@vanderbilt.edu or call our office at 615-322-2561.
  3. Record and release a secret album, a la Beyoncé.  I promise you, no one will see it coming.
  4. Get pumped and ready for next semester’s classes.  Contrary to popular myth, your final semester grades really do matter – if for no other reason than because you want to learn as much as possible before you get to college-level work.  Do everything you can right now to make sure you can hit the ground running in January.
  5. Research and/or visit the schools you’ve applied to.  Chances are you have applied to more than one university, and you don’t want to be caught off guard in April when you suddenly have to make a decision between several fantastic options.  It’s a great problem to have, but it’s one you want to be prepared for.
  6. Do something you’ve never done before.  Because we all should, from time to time.
  7. Make a list of goals for your final semester.  We all know that New Year’s resolutions often peter out in the first few months, so how about making a few “new spring” resolutions?  Think about the four or five things you want to complete or achieve by graduation, and start mapping out a plan to get you there.
  8. Spend large amounts of quality time with your family and friends.  The next eight months are going to fly by, and come August, you’re going to wish you did.  While you may not be sad about your last holiday season living at home, I promise your parents are, so make sure they feel extra loved this year.
  9. Watch an entire season of your favorite TV show in one sitting.  This is probably my least productive suggestion, but you have to find at least one way to truly indulge during your break.  Netflix recently released a report stating that 61% of their customers “binge watch” shows on a regular basis, and 73% of those customers feel pretty good about it.
  10. Read something.  Anything.  With the amount of academic work students are immersed in during the school year, many forget the fact that reading can be both productive and enjoyable.  The added benefit, of course, is that it exercises your brain and makes you a smarter, cooler person.
  11. My favorite way to relax: watching TV on the couch with this adorable hunk of fur.

    Find something that relaxes you.  This one is intentionally vague – for some of us, it’s yoga or Pilates or going for a long run.  For others, it’s video games or cooking or playing fetch with the family dog.  Whatever you do that allows your mind to relax and recharge, do it.

  12. Watch this video of a man who started a Free Hug Campaign in his community, then go start one of your own.  Even if it just means making a sign and hanging it in your living room.
  13. Read up on the psychological concept of “locus of control” and think of ways you can apply it to your life.  Back when I was a teacher, learning to mentally separate the fixable from the unfixable did wonders for my stress levels and my overall effectiveness, and I often wish that I had learned this lesson sooner.
  14. Write thank you notes to your recommenders and anyone who helped you with your college search.  Merely by completing the Common Application, you have proved that there are people in your life who care about you and want to see you succeed; make sure to let them know how much you appreciate their support.

Of course this list is by no means exhaustive.  If you have suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments below.  And from all of us at the OUA, have a wonderful winter break!


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