The holidays are coming up soon, and everyone is excited for a festive break! But for many students, the holidays also come with the pressure to keep up with studying for classes, doing test prep, or both. How can you balance a rigorous calendar of academic demands with the need for a break over the holidays? It can be tricky, but there’s no need to take a pass on the pumpkin pie for prep work. Here’s a few tips on keeping up with your studies while also giving yourself the holiday break you deserve:

Set Realistic Goals

You’re going to enter the holiday season with ideas in mind about how much work and studying you want to get done over break. But it’s important to set goals that are both concrete and realistic, whether this is doing a full SAT/ACT practice test over the break, drafting a certain number of college essays, or prepping and reviewing for your classes for a certain amount of time per week.

Setting the right goals is a principle of social emotional learning, or SEL, which is a scientific approach to holistic learning. A realistic and attainable goal will help keep you on track with a tangible study plan, rather than trying to make it up as you go along, which can have unpredictable results.

Give Yourself a Schedule

Saying “I’ll study when I have the time” or “I’ll study when I need to” is a trap, and a double-edged sword. This can lead to one of two less-than-ideal outcomes: either you end up procrastinating, and don’t study as much as you need to, or you push yourself too hard, studying in every free moment you have, and put yourself at risk of burning out.

Instead of that, set yourself a schedule. Block out time — an hour or two a day, on specific days, for example — to study. This will ensure you have the time and mental space for schoolwork, but also that studying is kept in place, and you give yourself time to rest and relax.

Designate “Study-Free Days”

This may sound counterintuitive, but setting aside a few days where you leave studying completely to one side can be beneficial, for both your mental health and your study plan. This is an especially good idea around the holidays, when there will be a few days (Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, whatever your family celebrates and is important to you) where you’ll want to give all your attention to celebrating.

Making a few holiday days “study-free days” will give you a chance to take a total mental break, which you’ll need to recharge. And afterwards, you’ll be able to return to your study plan renewed, refreshed, and ready to crush it!

Be Flexible

The holidays can be an unpredictable time of year, and it’s important that you not let that throw you off course. Did your cousins stop by for an unexpected visit during your designated study block? Were you hit by inspiration for an amazing college essay when you were supposed to be relaxing and taking time off? Have room in your schedule to make last-minute, spur-of-the-moment changes. This may lead to your study plan (or your holiday break!) not going quite as you imagined, but you’ll be grateful that you went with the flow and practiced adapting to unexpected situations — a skill that will also serve you well in college!

Given that the holidays can be a tricky time of year, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether that’s from family, friends, or a professional like our team at A-List. We’ll always be there to help make your holidays productive, restful, and fun!