Wednesday, December 6, 2023

December Break Checklist for Seniors (Share, Use, and Modify at Will)

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

Dear Seniors:

I hope you have a wonderful vacation, since you’ve been working hard, not only at school, but on your plans for life after high school.

As you get ready for break, here are a few gentle reminders:

Finishing college applications Some of you are planning on using part of break to complete your college applications. That makes all kinds of sense for some of you, but it’s also important to use break for a break, especially since this may be the last December many of you will be home with your families for such a long period of time.

If you think you can produce your best work, complete your college applications before break. If you need time over the vacation to work on them, think about limiting your application time to an hour a day. You really deserve a breather.

Financial aid forms It’s pretty likely the FAFSA form—the big financial aid form for college and many technical programs—won’t be available until December 31. If that’s the case, do yourself a favor, and don’t look at it until school is back in session. There are no deadlines over break for completing financial aid forms, so you won’t be missing out on any cash for college. In addition, I’ll be around after break to work with you and your parents to complete this form, which is much easier than you think.

College can be expensive, but if you or your parents look at the form over break and need help completing it, frustration will only get in the way of getting the money you deserve. This can wait until school reopens.

College friends Many of you are looking forward to catching up with your friends who will be home from college. They’ll probably have a few things to say about what college is really like—and that can be a huge help as you make your future plans.

Since some of these friends are older, you may be catching up with them at events where beer and other adult drinks will be available. Let me just say you want to be careful here. Everyone has a camera on their phone, and one picture of you doing something questionable can easily hit social media—and who knows where it will go from there.

Colleges and employers don’t typically monitor social media accounts of applicants, but some students have lost scholarships, admission offers, and more because of what’s on their social media. This is on top of the dangers you risk if you drink and drive, or get arrested for underage drinking. It’s great to hang with your friends. In doing so, don’t hang your well-being, and your future plans, out to dry.

Be careful Even though you won’t be drinking, adults will be, and they may not always use good judgement. The percentage of drunk drivers goes way up as the night gets longer, and the number of drunk drivers is likely to increase where people have been drinking. These are good reasons to be home on the early side, and to use roads that keep you away from restaurants and bars. Suffice it say, getting in a car with a drunk driver is just a bad idea. Call Uber, or your parents. It may be embarrassing, but at least you’ll be around to be embarrassed.

Some of this isn’t easy for me to say to you, but the truth is, I’ve really enjoyed working with you, and I’d like to keep doing that in January. Please give me a chance to do that. See you then.

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