Extended break provides chance for college visits, brief vacation

Sarah Novicoff

Students plan to visit colleges, work on college applications and relax during this week’s changed mid-semester break. Seniors will have Wednesday off while juniors and sophomores take the PSAT. The whole Upper School has Thursday and Friday off. Middle school students have spent the week on retreat.

“We feel it is almost the only thing in recent memory that is universally appealing,” Dean Sharon Cuseo said. “I think faculty need it and students need it; seniors especially are taking advantage of it as a chance to visit colleges. I think, especially since we started earlier this year, it is just the right time when people are starting to feel a little overwhelmed, and they need a chance to catch up and take a breath. I feel like it was a very positive step.”

In previous years, mid-semester break meant the Monday after the PSAT off for all three grades at the Upper School. However, by moving that day-off to Thursday and adding an additional day of break on Friday, the school hoped to give students a chance to visit schools and teachers a chance to write recommendations for early applications.

“Last year we decided that, especially since we were starting school early, we had a few more school days to play with essentially,” Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said. “We thought about when those days would be best, when would a couple days off best be utilized, and we came up with the October break. It’s really seen as a way to reduce stress around here. Seniors need it for colleges, juniors need it because they’ve been working really hard, sophomores need it because they’ve been working really hard too. Faculty, who are writing up to 30 recommendation letters, need it to write those letters.”

81 percent of 142 seniors polled reported that they will spend part of the break working on collgee applications while 36.6 percent reported that they will visit colleges over the break. Sam Weintraub ’14 will use the break for the second purpose: visiting colleges that he wouldn’t have otherwise seen before the early deadlines.

“I’m visiting UT Austin, Tulane, Indiana and Michigan,” Weintraub said. “Missing one day of school on its own is so overwhelming. Missing a whole week would be really stressful. I’m really happy that we get this week off not only because it will allow me to relax, but also because I believe it will really influence where I end up. Seeing a school first-hand I believe is the best way to determine whether a school is truly right for you.”

Cuseo echoed that statement, saying she hopes that students will now make more thoughtful and well-informed decisions as a result of the break.

“I’m hoping that maybe better decisions will be made,” Cuseo said. “I don’t think it will change the percentage [of students who apply early] because that is going to be high no matter what, but maybe if they are going to do Early Decision where they are really committing, it will be more thoughtful.”

75.2 percent of 139 juniors polled reported that they will use the break to unwind and relax in Los Angeles.

“I’m so excited to go to Six Flags over mid-semester break with my friends,” Shannyn Schack ’15 said. “I am really looking forward to riding all the new rides, especially Superman. It’s going to be so much fun.”

83.6% of 148 sophomores polled reported they will spend the break relaxing and unwinding in Los Angeles, like the juniors.

“This is the first year, and I can honestly say that I believe we will do it again,” Cuseo said.