Happy New Year! Whether you’re a parent or student, a freshman or senior, January presents an opportunity for a fresh start. We polled our team of seasoned admissions and financial aid professionals for their resolution ideas to help you make 2019 a healthy, productive, rewarding year. Be sure to check out our podcast, Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, for even more tips.
Resolutions for Students
Create a dedicated homework space. Clear off that desk, dining room table, the corner of the den—wherever you know you’ll be the most productive. Put everything you need to do your work there: pens, pencils, paper, tape, scissors, etc. Extra time spent running around looking for these items just drags out your homework time.
Pick up a book! Reading is a reward in itself, but it will also build your vocabulary and make you a better writer. Additionally, try to make time to two read at least one interesting, long-form news articles a week. This will help grow your awareness of world events (which also makes you better prepared for future college interviews!).
Don’t procrastinate and squander the summer after junior year. There’s no reason why you can’t complete 99% of your application before senior year begins. At the very least, aim to complete all apps by Thanksgiving break. Believe us, you’ll thank yourself later!
You’re never too young to save and learn responsibility. Even if you’re in middle school, talk to your parents about looking for ways to earn a little pocket money by doing extra chores, babysitting, or helping out neighbors by petsitting or shoveling snow.
Planning to take on a summer job? Dedicate a portion of your earnings to be used at college. Already working? Start saving now. Did you get some holiday cash? Consider putting some of it aside in your own college piggy bank. If you have a hard time controlling your urge to shop, use the envelope system. That means put a set amount of cash into an envelope each month, deposit the rest of your earnings in the bank, and only allow yourself to spend the envelope’s contents—no dipping into your bank account!
Resolutions for Parents
This may seem terribly old fashioned, but give your kids—even those in elementary school—alarm clocks. This is an easy way for your youngest to learn how to start their day independently, and a way to untether your older kids from their phones overnight.
Work your scheduled hours and then be present for the kids when they come home. Don’t answer email after a certain time at night and only check email on the weekends, if necessary, and then within given times. You don’t want to be on 24/7 with work when your children may need help and guidance from you, whether with homework or social and emotional concerns.
While you try to be present and available for your children, remember that their schoolwork and projects, their college essays and applications–they belong to your children. It is their process, their idea, and their finished product, not yours.
If you don’t already have one, create a budget for 2019 and set savings goals. Track your spending as a family and have discussions about needs verses wants and how to break habits (e.g. no impulse shopping at Target, cutting the cable cord, etc.) Set savings goals for everyone.
Be frugal with any “extra” money and stow it away for college. That 2019 raise? Live like you didn’t get it and put the excess into 529 plans. That tax refund? Into the college fund. These small commitments are an easy way to build up money for the future with very minimal sacrifice now.
If you have a college grad feeling overwhelmed with loan repayment, tell them to use the new year to make a fresh financial start by researching refinancing options or changing their payment plan.
Resolutions for the Whole Family
Put yourself on a sleep schedule and keep it. It will make everyone in your family happier and healthier. It’s recommended that adults aim for seven to nine hours of sleep, while pediatricians say teens should get about nine to be at their healthiest.
Use the “Screen Time” feature on the iPhone and stick to it by setting Downtime and App Limits.
Look for ways to give back as a family that require neither technology nor spending money. Volunteer at a local food bank, organize a diaper or canned food drive in your neighborhood, or do some serious spring cleaning to fill a few boxes you can donate to a local charity.
Finally, a Special Resolution for Seniors and Parents of Seniors
Carve out some family fun. Senior year is gone in a flash and huge changes will be upon your family before you know it. Enjoy long dinners, bond over a camping trip, take a walk with even your most annoying little brother or sister—appreciate each other and make the most of this special time.