The holidays are about giving and sharing. In light of recent belt tightening, forget about hitting the mall to buy a sweater or a gift card. The best gift you could give yourself and others is time. Time to enjoy the company of family and friends, time to spend cooking your favorite dishes with your parents, time to create long lasting memories with younger siblings and relatives.
If you are completing your college applications, time is something you know you don’t have. Still, by using the skills you’ve recently acquired from the rigorous college application process, you’ll be able to manage the joys of the holiday season. These four tips should help.
- Start early to find the perfect presents. If you are like me, you spend a lot of time browsing in stores to find the perfect gift. Minutes become hours and before you know it you’ve become a last minute shopper. Learn from the time you spent researching colleges. You started early, you thought about what factors mattered most to you in a college; you created a list of schools you’d be thrilled to attend and then you cut it down until it was manageable. Do the same for your family and friends’ presents. Do you know what their preferences are? While asking is the easiest way to find out, be an attentive listener and observer. Once you have a general idea of their tastes and needs, consider what factors matter most to them (e.g. functionality, style, comfort). Begin jotting down ideas early, you’ll save yourself time when you have a few minutes to yourself to do your holiday shopping.
- Shop around. Imagine doing all your holiday shopping at only one store? Like researching colleges, you need to use multiple sources to find the right gifts. You have used college guidebooks, and college fairs to find the right college. Then, when you had your preliminary research done, you visited the colleges first hand. With that, use the internet and catalogs to create your preliminary list of gifts. Then, once you’ve done your research, you’ll actually go to the stores. This will not only save you time, but money-you won’t be distracted by last-minute sales and other stores where you might buy something that is not on your shopping list.
- Take a break and involve others. Like your college applications, you need to take a break to get some perspective. In fact, it is helpful to get feedback from people that know you. Like your college essays, you know that you can’t write a perfect personal statement by yourself. So, don’t think you can find perfect presents without some outside help. As you took a break and involved others in helping you with your college applications, do the same with your holiday shopping. Not only will you ease your stress levels, but you’ll also spread the joy of the season.
- Personalize. Remember, it’s the “thought that matters.” The Common Application is similar to the generic holiday card. Know your audience. Although you can send many Common Applications, it’s the personal statements and supplements that really matter. In the same way that you personalized each college interview and supplement, you need to take that extra minute to show that you care. Adding a personal note to a card is comparable to going that extra mile to show a particular college that you are perfect for that college. Taking an extra minute can go a long way to make a lasting impression and hopefully win you admission.
Following these steps will not only reduce your holiday stress, but also give you time to really enjoy your family and friends. Like a successful college application process, it is one that takes time. Overall, you can handle the holiday shopping season by starting early, doing your research, involving others and making this process as personal as possible.