4 Ways to Balance Winter Break Fun, Test Prep

Find ways during winter break to balance SAT study with socializing and personal rejuvenation.

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Social expectations can be high during winter break, so set clear boundaries that allow time for both personal enjoyment and SAT prep.
Social expectations can be high during winter break, so set clear boundaries that allow time for both personal enjoyment and SAT prep.

Winter break offers a great opportunity for extra SAT preparation before the January and March exams, as high school students have one fewer item on their plates: school. While social expectations are often high during winter break, it is possible for students to enjoy themselves while remaining productive.

The following four tips can help students find a balance between studying and relaxing that is useful for successful SAT prep. 

[Discover ways to spend your last winter break before college.] 

1. Enjoy social time – with boundaries: The frivolity of winter break is contagious. Relatives often travel great distances to see one another, and friends return from college ready to reconnect. 

Enjoy this social time by making clear commitments and setting boundaries with friends and family about your free time. Perhaps you'll choose to say yes to the family dinner, but decline the group movie outing afterward. 

Be clear with people about your time constraints when you do socialize so that you can adequately enjoy yourself without regretting not having used the time to study. Be in the moment completely, and put aside the temptation to ask someone to quiz you with a deck of flashcards. 

2. Study while de-stressing: Exercise has been proven to keep the mind alert and promote more restful sleep, both of which are integral to successful SAT test prep. Winter break allows some extra time for fitness, so bring your vocabulary or flashcard app and head for the elliptical machine or a long walk. 

Not only is body movement good for your thinking, but it also challenges your mind to learn, store and access information in settings filled with various distractions. If you can learn even 10 new words under those conditions, you are well on your way to building strong study and test-taking skills. 

[Follow these steps to design a test prep timeline.] 

3. Reward yourself: Consider some small treats that you might not have time for during the school year. If you are a fan of social media but have cut back to make time in your study plan during school, allow yourself some time each day to enjoy social networking once you have met a certain study goal. 

Maybe you enjoy cooking, but can't usually fit it in your busy schedule. In this case, make a favorite meal and share it with others after you have put in the designated daily study time. Two or three days later, set a slightly more challenging study goal and reward yourself with something a little more decadent than the previous time. 

Rewards keep you balanced, motivated and increase your confidence, all of which are keys to SAT success. 

[Take advantage of online SAT test prep resources.] 

4. Take a half-day for yourself: Winter break provides weary students with plenty of time for rejuvenation, so pick a day to do something you really enjoy. Go snowshoeing, kayaking, venture out to a movie or window shop. 

You should keep to a study schedule that day, but make sure to find time that is not filled with other social expectations and make it your own. Remember, your calendar becomes a busy rush just before and after the SAT and for high school juniors, the work of researching and applying to colleges soon begins. 

A half-day of personal rejuvenation can supply you with perspective – another important tool for SAT success. Remember that while it is important to keep your achievement goals in mind, it is also important to learn life-work balance skills now so you can apply them throughout your higher education journey. 

Winter break is a perfect time to practice while maintaining a healthy perspective on your study goals. 

DeAnna Rivera is a professional tutor with Varsity Tutors. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York—Stony Brook and a J.D. from the University of Arizona.