Juliette’s Declassified School Survival Guide: December

Ten-day winter break challenge


Photo Illustration by Emma Trussell

With increasingly chilly days and post-finals exhaustion setting in like the recent overcast weather, motivation is slipping for many students. Since most don’t have a major project to complete over winter break, once school starts up again in the new year, it’s normally an uphill climb to get back into the school rhythm. To an extent, this is a good thing. Students need time for some much-deserved relaxation and lazy days accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate and Netflix. However, that doesn’t mean winter break has to be a complete waste.

If you’re looking for something to do, consider ending the decade strong by taking up a challenge: 10 tasks for the 2010s. Since winter break consists of two weeks, 10 tasks are a nice medium between productivity and relaxation, especially since some may take five minutes and others may take 30. Completing a challenge this break may give you a feeling of accomplishment to lead you into the new year.

Day One: Study for the SAT for 10 minutes

The most difficult part of this task isn’t the studying itself, but starting the first task of the 10 days. Because of this, there is double the reluctance to put down the phone or the laptop and pick up the heavy SAT or ACT book. Seniors who already have their official scores aren’t off the hook, either. Find some notes from last semester or assigned reading for the break and take five minutes to review. Starting is the hardest part, but after crossing that barrier and getting the ball rolling, everything gets easier.

Day Two: Read a chapter (or two) of a book of your choice

Some students may have assigned reading over the break and taking care of those assignments should be high on your priority list, but I advise branching out from school in this activity. Half Price Books is full of novels as cheap as $1. If graphic novels are more your style, there’s no shame in reading those. The object is to fill your afternoon with something you can enjoy, but that doesn’t give you the sense you wasted your time.

Day Three: Buy needed school supplies

The purchase doesn’t have to be as large as a binder, or even as practical. Agenda stickers and creative erasers may be more fitting for the excitement of the holidays. Additionally, I don’t know a single person in my life who wouldn’t love a few extra pencils to make up for the ones that mysteriously go missing throughout the year.

Day Four: Apply for a scholarship

The majority of students have heard a fair share of horror stories around student loans. While it’s important to understand that much of this panic is overblown, financial security is a significant concern in the lives of college students. Strike a balance between extreme terror and procrastination and take some time to invest in your future. Fastweb and Chegg are both great sites for quick applying.

Day Five: Research colleges for five minutes

This activity is applicable to both juniors and seniors. Juniors may get a headstart on the college process and seniors can review their options for any schools they might have missed in their earlier applications. Lots of colleges have January deadlines, so it’s not too late to keep researching.

Day Six: Clean something in your house

A clean room — and the act of cleaning itself — is soothing once you work past the initial reluctance of getting started. Not to mention, a clean living space is a gift that keeps on giving. Once it’s done during break, you can spend the next semester in an environment that facilitates efficient working.

Day Seven: Make a plan in advance

Some classes give out unit calendars on the last day of class, so if you have an agenda, then fill in the empty spaces for next semester. If you don’t keep an agenda, think about your studying strategy last semester and ask yourself what you can improve on. Don’t forget to be specific — instead of saying, “I’ll study more,” say, “I’ll make studying my first task after school,” or “I’ll take Wednesday and Thursday lunch periods just to do homework.”

Day Eight: Go to bed on time

Everybody’s curfew is different, but I believe the majority of people agree that any time past 11:00 p.m. is too late. Set a time and stick to it; it’s good practice for the spring semester.

Day Nine: Make a list of 10 things you did well in 2019

Amidst studying for the SAT and managing the stress of a financially secure future, this might be the hardest of all 10 tasks. For most people, it’s easier to list failures than successes, but congratulating yourself on making it through the decade is just as important as being honest with yourself about what you could improve on. Discouragement never did anything for productivity. Inspiration, on the other hand, brings the energy needed for hard work.

Day 10: Make a list of five (realistic) 2020 goals

Realistic goals can include: completing your math homework the night it’s assigned, studying for tests a day early or setting aside three nights per week to prepare for the SAT/ACT. Realistic goals do not include: getting an A on every test, making a 5.0 GPA, or getting accepted into every Ivy League college. Don’t overwhelm yourself with demands of how you can be the best compared to others. Instead, focus on what’s important to you, or what will make you feel proud of yourself in the New Year.