3 Ways Juniors Can Prep for College Over Spring Break

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Many students find junior year of high school to be their busiest. Perhaps it's because they're preparing for more standardized tests than usual — APs, SATs, ACTs and a whole bunch of other alphabet soup. Maybe it's because their coursework has just gotten more complex, or they've crammed in an extra class or club. If you're in this boat, you're probably looking forward to the rest and relaxation of your week-long spring break, and I don't want to stand in your way! I will, however, recommend these three low-stress things you can do to help prep for college.

Take a College Road Trip

When you think of a spring break vacation, you probably picture yourself lounging on a sandy beach with the water nearby. Or maybe you're more of a mountain lover and want to spend that time off hiking somewhere scenic. Whatever the case, I'm sure any vacation plans you envision for yourself don't include visiting colleges. This is a time away from school, so why would you spend it visiting one?

I don't blame you for wanting to spend your spring break somewhere fun, and I in no way suggest putting any other plans on hold. What I do suggest is researching your final destination to see if any schools you're considering are within a reasonable distance. If they are, consider making a detour or a pit stop. When it comes to gauging your level of comfort on campus, nothing is quite as effective as visiting it in person, and this will give you the chance to talk with students who are currently attending the school and to visit the facilities so you can see what they have to offer firsthand.

Brainstorm Your Essays

Your application essays are a great opportunity for self-reflection, and what better time to reflect than during a break from school, when you'll likely have more time to spend on your own? You don't have to set aside all of your time, but you should at least spend a little time brainstorming what you'd like to write about once you're back in work mode. What personality traits do you want to convey? How about aspects of your background, work or extracurricular experiences, or interests?

The time you set aside now can help alleviate a lot of stress later on. You can only benefit from the pre-work you do of creating an outline or a few bullet points. (And, hey, if you feel up to writing the whole thing now, your future self certainly won't complain!)

Try Something New

Spring break is the prime opportunity to broaden your horizons. And I don't mean sitting back, relaxing and bingeing a few seasons of a TV show. This is your opportunity to try something new that can add depth to your college applications. Colleges look to things like extracurriculars, volunteer experience and employment to get a sense of your personality. Take this chance to better showcase how you spend your time outside of school!

You're in a rare position where your workdays are free, so consider trying to set up a time in which you can shadow a professional at their job. For instance, if you've got your heart set on a career in medicine, you might benefit from seeing firsthand what a nurse does throughout a shift. Alternatively, this might be a great opportunity to give back to the community — perhaps there's a local charity or organization that could benefit from a few of your spring break hours. Whatever the case, take the gift of free time and put it to good use.

And if you've yet to nail down your list of target schools, take some time to get started on that too. Use our variety of college rankings — covering everything from best value colleges to best campus food — to find your best-fit school.

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