Today is a holiday in the United States. It’s Labor Day, the third day of a long weekend. It’s customarily celebrated with outdoor barbecues and beach parties, as we send off summer.

Before you put those sunglasses away for another year, let’s talk vacation.

Athena Advises

If you have a teenager in tenth, eleventh or twelfth grade–or if you are that teenager–please stop and think for a moment about fall break.

Does your school schedule a one- or even a two-week break in October? Are you used to flying off to a family vacation on another continent ?

“I know you’re not going to want to hear this, Dr. Corcoran, but my parents have already bought plane tickets to (fill in the blank).” Long experience has shown me that the return tickets are likely to land the family back home the night before school begins.

Perhaps it’s not too much of a problem for younger children to yawn their way through the first few days back, as they acclimate at the rate of one time zone per day. But for an eleventh-grader facing the critical year for grades, plus a lineup of standardized tests, the invitation to drop everything and pack for a long vacation is a mixed message. And a twelfth-grader whose Early Decision or Early Action application(s) are due on November first is being put into a rather difficult situation.

This may sound like unwelcome news, if you’re used to a lengthy reprieve in the fall. You feel entitled to your longstanding practice of fall holidays! You deserve them, no?

Allow me to mention that the custom of a week off in October dates from an era when children were needed to bring in the harvest. In Germany, this break was called “Kartoffelwoche,” or “potato week.” You were entitled to skip school to dig potatoes.

Now that you are (I hope) laughing, let’s consider a different–a more grown-up–kind of holiday. How about scheduling a family trip to visit colleges? They’re actually rather attractive places. How about a city break in London, Boston or Washington? New York offers lots for the whole family to do while teenagers visit universities in the area. Or you could create an itinerary of colleges to visit on a scenic drive down the California coast.

It’s a perfect time of year, and the schools are in session! Have an exciting vacation!

Dr. Marlena Corcoran
Founder and CEO