Best tips for 11th graders to Ace College Preparation Over Winter Break

Winter break is a great time for 11th graders to get a jump start on college preparation. It’s an important time for students to focus on their future and take advantage of the resources available. From researching college options to creating a college application timeline, there are many ways to make the most of this time to ensure a successful journey through the college admissions process. Here are some of the best tips for 11th graders to ace college preparation over winter break, so they can take the next step and feel confident in their college application journey.

Focus on your test scores

In addition to your grades, standardized test scores are another important factor in the college admissions process. Many colleges require students to submit their test scores as part of their application. Check out the requirements for each college and see which test is right for you. Take at least one SAT and ACT to see which one you score higher, then start a plan to get the score needed for the college you are looking to apply to. You can visit College Board or Khan Academy for test prep.  



Research college options

Whether you’re applying Early Decision or Regular Decision, you’ll need to start your college search early to find the best fit for you. Start by making a list of the colleges you are interested in. You can use websites like Niche, CollegeStats, CollegeInsure, and College Board to help you find the best fit. These websites are great for finding college stats, checking out colleges in your area, and seeing each college’s Standardized Admission Requirements. 

Create a college application timeline

Creating a timeline for your college applications is a great way to stay on track and feel more confident overall in the college admissions process. It’s also a way to build extra time into your schedule if something comes up and you need to push something back. There are a few different ways to create your timeline for the fall and winter months. You can either create your timeline by month or create a yearly calendar. It may also be a good idea to have a backup timeline, so you have a plan B in case something gets delayed or you need to push something back. While keeping your timeline flexible is important, it’s also important not to leave yourself too little time to complete certain tasks. You may want to start applying for college earlier than other students to ensure that your application isn’t rushed.


Schedule college visits

Visiting college campuses is a great way to get more familiar with the universities you’re interested in. It can also help you determine which universities are a good fit for you. There are a few ways to go about visiting colleges. You can visit a university during one of its Open Houses, attend an Admissions event, or visit on your own. You can find out which universities have Open Houses or Admissions events by checking the university’s website. You can also visit a university on your own by scheduling a campus visit. When visiting colleges, you’ll want to note what you like and don’t like about each campus. You can also write down any questions you have about the university so you can ask an admissions counselor when you visit. You may also want to take notes on particular professors or classes that interest you, so you can better understand what you want to study in college.

Prepare for college interviews.

If you are applying to a university that does interviews as part of the application process, winter break is a great time to start preparing. Identify which universities require interviews as part of the application process and reach out to them to learn more about the university and better understand their culture. Next, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the general format of a college interview. The interview typically lasts 30-45 minutes. The admissions interviewer will usually begin by asking you a few questions about yourself and your interests to understand better who you are as a person. From there, they may ask you questions about your academic and extracurricular interests and experiences.


Set up meetings with college admissions counselors

During winter break, one of the best ways to set yourself apart as a competitive applicant is to set up meetings with college admissions counselors. Many colleges offer free Admissions Counselor hours during certain times of the year, including winter break. You can use this time to meet one-on-one with a counselor and get more personalized information and advice about the application process. Meeting with a counselor is a great way to ask any questions you have about the application process, clarify any points on your application, and learn how to strengthen your application. You can use a college admissions calendar to determine when your schools have their counselor hours. You can also call your schools to find out their counselor hours. 

Research potential scholarships

Winning a scholarship is a great way to pay for your college education and save money. It’s important to start researching scholarships as soon as possible. It’s best to start researching scholarships in the fall, though you can begin as early as July. You can start by creating a list of potential scholarships you want to apply to and then look through each scholarship to see what they are looking for in a candidate. You can use a scholarship search tool, like Cappex’s scholarship search, to find and apply for a wide range of scholarships. You can also use a scholarship notebook to keep track of the scholarships you’ve applied for and research the ones you plan to apply for in the future.


Find volunteer opportunities

Many colleges look for applicants who are committed to their communities and passionate about helping others. Volunteering is a great way for 11th graders to gain experience and meet people outside of their own classrooms. It’s also a great way to leave a positive mark on your college application. You can start by searching for volunteer opportunities near you or online. You can also check with your school’s volunteer program to see if they have any volunteer opportunities for students. It’s important to choose a volunteer opportunity that is a good fit for you. Consider the amount of time you have to commit to the volunteer opportunity, the location of the opportunity, and the type of work you’ll be doing. Keep track of your volunteer experiences in your volunteer notebook so you have a record of your volunteer accomplishments to include in your college application.


Work on your college essay

Writing an essay for your application is a great way to stand out from other applicants and show admissions counselors what makes you a unique and qualified candidate. There are many different types of essays, including a Common Application essay, a University of California personal insight essay, and a Harvard University two-part essay. It’s important to start working on your essay as soon as you know what essay prompt each college is looking for. You can use a college essay planning guide to walk you through the process of writing an effective essay.

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