Ah, the holidays: family, food, fun, parties, presents, decorations and…standardized tests, exams, and homework, of course! Hold on to your Santa hat, because this year, more students than ever before will be taking the ACT on February 6, 2016, and the holiday season falls right smack in the middle of prep time. Not only that, but January 23 will also be the last opportunity to take the current version of the SAT before the College Board unveils its new test in March. Contrary to how students may feel, it’s not that standardized test prep falls in the middle of the holidays, it’s that the holidays fall in the middle of standardized test prep! And let’s not forget the requisite school exams, homework, projects and papers on top of it all. So the big question is how can juniors stay on track during a seemingly more and more hectic season?
1. Stick to the plan: If you have decided to prepare for, let’s say, eight weeks prior to a standardized test, it’s important to stay on track with your prep regardless of the holidays. While I’m not suggesting spending Christmas Eve reading ACT passages, I think it’s good to keep in mind that life doesn’t just stop during the holidays, although maybe it seems like it does sometimes. It’s amazing how many things tend to get put on the backburner during this time of year. So pour yourself some egg nog, throw a log on the fire and don’t skip a week of tutoring or practicing just because a holiday is on the horizon. Consistency is vital when prepping for tests.
2. Keep the end in mind: This year, Hanukkah is already underway and Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner, creating essentially a month-long celebration (or distraction, if you care to be so Scrooge-like). Remember to keep the end date in your mind. Yes, December 10th seems light years away from April, but the truth is that while you’re recovering from all the holiday jolliness, you’ll wake up one day and realize that spring is right around the corner. And with spring’s long-awaited blossoms also comes the next round of standardized tests, not to mention looming AP exams and finals. Amid all the chaos of the season, keep the end goal in mind and think long-term.
3. Break is coming: Not only do many students have to contend with standardized test prep, but many also report teachers “cramming” in as much information as possible before winter recess begins. It’s very easy this time of year to feel burned out and want to watch holiday movies and “veg out” rather than do schoolwork. But incentivizing can be a good way to stay motivated. You are about to get a well-deserved and much-needed break from school. Keep this in mind; it’s a gleam of light at the end of the tunnel. And when you go back to school in January, not only will you be halfway done with the year, you’ll also be turning some of your attention to college searching, which can be exciting and invigorating. Of course, it can also be daunting, so enjoying the break and recharging your batteries is definitely a good idea.
4. Multitask: Believe it or not, it is possible to enjoy the season and still stay on track. It’s a matter of juggling. Just keep your long-term goals in mind and stay diligent. You can do this and still have your fill of treats, gifts and merriment. By the time the season is over, you’ll be relieved that it won’t come again for another year and by that time, you’ll almost be off to college.
Written by Phil Lane