Winter Break Guide for Parents of High School Seniors & College Freshmen

All you need to know about what to do and not do during the next few weeks.

By Anne Vaccaro Brady

The Winter Break often brings different expectations for parents and their teens. Unfortunately, if you have a high school senior or college freshman, life probably won’t be as relaxing as you had hoped. I’ve written about the various issues that arise during these few weeks and how to approach them. Read on for links to advice on surviving this exciting but crazy time, whatever stage your student is in.DSC02623

High School Seniors

Finishing college applications There are many reasons teens wait until the end to finish up applications, but that doesn’t matter now. Help yours focus on completing them. Check out my tips on how to motivate the reluctant applicant. Then read my advice on how to streamline the process and save all of you time, energy and frustration. Try taking a new approach and viewing the application experience as an opportunity to bond with your student. Yes, you read that right.

Waiting to hear from colleges For those of you whose kids have finished their applications, the first acceptances and rejections are on their way. That leaves your student with some simple decisions to make now, and deciding which offer to accept is not one of them. When your teen has a couple of acceptances in hand, it’s time for your family to move onto the next steps, like figuring out how to pay the tuition bill.

When the unthinkable happens I’ve known more than one high school senior who was rejected by every college he applied to. Be strong; be supportive. It’s time for Plan B or C, which can still include attending college in the fall. Check out what options are available when your teen receives rejections from his first round of colleges.

Seniors and College Students

FAFSA for everyone High school seniors and college students can all begin filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid starting January 1. Explore the FAFSA site if this if your first time through and learn about the various ways to pay for college. Old and new users must set up an ID, which now includes a username and password, replacing the PIN format used in the past.

Despite what you’ve heard, FAFSA isn’t as bad as it used to be. The form has been revised and slimmed down over the past few years. But it is important that you and your teen file it to give her the best chance of receiving financial aid, both federal and school-based. Here’s what you need to know about FAFSA and why you shouldn’t delay in filling it out.

College Freshmen

Surviving the long break Thanksgiving went pretty well, but your student was home for barely a week. Additional changes are ahead now that your freshman has more time off. Here’s what to expect during the extended Winter Break. If it’s an especially long one, encourage your teen to take a course during the winter session.

When your college student talks about transferring Plenty of college freshmen return home after the first semester still wondering whether they picked the right college. There are ways to tell if transferring is the solution. If you and your teen agree it is, read my guide on the transfer process. Most importantly, focus on maximizing the number of credits that transfer to the new school.

Recognizing when your teen is struggling emotionally The challenge for parents of college freshmen is understanding the difference between prolonged homesickness and depression. Colleges have reported a dramatic rise in anxiety and depression among their students in recent years. Learn how to recognize when your college student is depressed and needs help, and review the resources for parents and students at the end of the post.

Preparing for the second semester Now that your freshman has one semester under her belt, the Winter Break serves as a good time to look at any issues she may have had during her first four months on campus and find solutions that will help her succeed and be more comfortable during her second semester.

There you have it. A guide for making the next few weeks run as smoothly as possible with your high school senior or college student. Good luck.

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