As Thanksgiving approaches, the distractions increase, with thoughts of turkey, shopping, and family time taking you away from studying, writing papers, and finishing end-of-the-semester college projects.

With these top tips, you can enjoy your holiday traditions (yum, pumpkin pie) and finish up the semester strong.

1. Get real (but not about Santa)
Family get-togethers, holiday shopping, holiday cooking, office parties, your child’s school events, and more are all filling your calendar in Thanksgiving and December. Acknowledge that the holidays will bring challenges to your regular college schedule. As officials with Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J., say: It’s a mistake to ignore this and treat the holiday season just like the rest of the year.

2. Schedule your holidays
Just like timing the components of a holiday meal, designate days and hours for studying/coursework, holiday commitments, and family time.

For example, complete a homework assignment before you head out for Black Friday shopping, so you can enjoy the madness along with other deal seekers.

Establishing a balanced schedule will keep you from having to finish a key assignment or study for a final at the last minute, says Mary M. Herster, director of continuing education at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Penn.

Chose which holiday parties you will attend based upon school deadlines, so that you have enough time to study and have fun, says Richard Shadick, director of the counseling center and an associate adjunct professor of psychology at Pace University in New York.

3. Prioritize your assignments/studying.
Being organized can maximize your time and increase efficiency, Herster says.

4. Set realistic goals
This may be the year that you hand off certain Thanksgiving dishes or holiday parties to someone else. Explain your school obligations to your family, and if they are aware of your time pressures, they are more likely to be understanding, says Jorie Scholnik, an assistant professor at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla. Adult students often feel like they are unable to give anything their “all,” but if you set reasonable expectations about school, home and work, you will feel less stressed, Shadick says.

5. Use down time for studying
Bring your class materials, and turn waiting for a flight or traveling to your destination into a productive period. Or while you’re waiting for a delicious dessert to come out of the oven, dig into reading or a class assignment, or post a response on a discussion board.

6. Bond with other students in your family.
If family members you are hosting or visiting include other college students, offer to study with them, Scholnik says. Officials at Thomas Edison State College have a fun recommendation: Get your kids involved in your education by having them prepare note cards for your exams or quizzing you on the information.

7. Don’t overindulge.
Enjoy that (one) cup of eggnog, as Shadick points out that drinking too much, overeating, or staying up later than normal makes it difficult to study effectively,

8. Be thankful for help.
If you feel overloaded, consider going to your school’s counseling center to talk to a professional about your holiday and school-related stress.

With a little bit of planning and preparation (just like getting ready for guests), you can actually enjoy the holidays and earn that break you’ll get in December!

-Lori Johnston

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