The impending holidays often fill adults with that peculiar sense of dread that creeps up when days of celebration require weeks of preparation. But even post-Santa teenagers tend to view the span from before Christmas to after New Year’s Day with unfettered glee. This general merriment is inspired not just by holiday festivities but also by an extended break in studies, which every student surely deserves every now and then.
So why do I recommend that high schoolers take advantage of the holiday break to catch up on tutoring and test prep?
Surely, only a Scrooge would prescribe boring academic work during the holidays, right? Maybe not, if our concern is for student well-being over the entire span of the school year instead of just the final fortnight of December. With that perspective, three strong reasons emerge to support the idea that most high schoolers can benefit from a bit of prep over the holidays.
1. NO SCHOOL
Holiday break is ideal for prep for the same reason summer is ideal for prep: school is out. The modern college-bound high schooler is programmed within an inch of his or her stressful life with an avalanche of academic, athletic, artistic, social, and professional commitments. Any respite from the daily grind seems to be an opportunity to catch up on an almost certain sleep deficit, but research says that’s not really possible anyway. Better to carve a few hours out of a long week to focus on tutoring or test prep. Those sessions are inevitably more effective as well as enjoyable when they represent the only times a teen has to crack a book in a given day!
2. NO COLLEGE VISITS
Every academic year accelerates as its end approaches. While the end of December doesn’t even mark the halfway point of the school calendar, this period represents the last real chance to slow down for high school juniors. Spring Break is typically devoted to college visits and tournament play (save the partying for college, if at all) as is February Break in those states that seek to save on heating costs. So if you were hoping for a few unstructured days to turn your attention to serious review, there’s no place like home for the holidays.
3. TIMING FOR TESTS
In New York. midterms tend to fall towards the end of January, followed by the last scheduled January SAT. Every state but New York administers the ACT in February. Then we have a March SAT and April ACT. Since high school juniors should, in almost all cases, studiously avoid the late spring SAT and ACT, these winter test dates are worth focusing on. Ace your midterms and earn your best test scores before spring has really sprung to ensure your strongest possible finish to the school year.
Tutoring and test review during the Holiday Break don’t sound nearly as fun as sleeping in and socializing do. But if visions of great grades and competitive colleges dance like sugar plums in your head, give yourself the gift of prep this holiday season!