One of the best parts about being a full-time college student is probably the awesome extended breaks we get over the winter and in the summer. There are some downsides to those long breaks, though—boredom, feeling unproductive, or ending up strapped for cash right when you want to do some holiday shopping. Fortunately, those breaks are usually long enough to fit in a decent amount of work and productivity, or even a nice trip.

When I was an undergrad, the only jobs I held were work study, which lasted only through the academic semester. I usually spent my winter break holed up in my parents’ house, watching endless movie marathons and counting the days until I was back with my friends at school. By my senior year, I was tired of spending those long winter breaks doing a whole lot of nothing, so I decided to look for short term jobs to fill my time.

However you plan to spend your holiday break, whether it be at home or away, there are plenty of opportunities to make the most of your time off from classes, without paper and project deadlines looming over you.

Get a seasonal job.
Whether it’s retail, food service, tutoring, or childcare, there are plenty of jobs that are looking to hire people for the holiday season. Kids are off school and need looking after while parents are at work. Retail shops are looking for some extra hands to help out during the shopping season. Most chain restaurants and retail stores have moved online with their applications, so fill out a bunch in one sitting to save yourself a trip to the mall. Websites like Care.com can help you find parents looking for childcare and/or tutoring, and it can also match you with people who need their pets and houses cared for while they travel for the holidays.

reading


Do the things you didn’t have time for during the semester.

Personally, I tend to amass a huge amount of novels that I want to read during the semester, and they end up in a stack on my shelf, waiting to be read. So, I use my breaks to try and get through as many of those unread books as I can. Sometimes, when I was feeling extra studious, I’d grab the books for my classes the next semester a little early and thumb through them to get familiar with the content before class started. Now, my go-to is to binge watch a season or two of something I’ve had on my Netflix list for weeks. I spend more time with my dogs at the park, and work on writing I’ve put on the backburner all semester. If there’s something you like to do but can never find time for during the semester, your break is the time to do it!

Study abroad.
Some schools offer short study abroad sessions over winter break that last about 2-3 weeks, but still count for 1-3 credit hours. If you have wanted to study abroad but aren’t sure you could dedicate an entire semester to it, the shorter winter term trips might be your best option. Studying abroad is a great idea for college students to see other countries, as there are a good amount of scholarships and funding geared specifically towards helping fund these trips. You probably won’t have those kinds of funding opportunities once you’re out in the world, so take advantage of them while you can.

Take a short road trip.
If leaving the country—or even the state—seems a little too ambitious for winter break, consider taking a shorter trip around where you live. Find a destination that’s a few hours away and plan a day or two to spend there. If you’re tight on cash, make it a day trip rather than staying overnight. Or, if you’ve got some wiggle room in your budget, use a website like Booking.com or even AirBnB to find someplace cool to crash for a night or two. Take a friend or go solo—whatever will make it the most fun and relaxing.

Get yourself organized.

Take the time to go through old clothes and belongings to find things to donate. Winter break usually meant moving home, at least temporarily, and when spring rolled around, I often felt weighed down with way too much junk. Donating the things I don’t use or need anymore helped lift off some of that weight. Get rid of old handwritten notes you don’t need, or scan them into your computer and ditch the paper copies in the recycling. Toss out broken or damaged school supplies. Compile loose documents into one place and recycle ones you don’t need. Go digital with scans and photos.

Get a head start on scholarship applications.
At my undergrad university, the deadline for fall scholarships was usually sometime in February. So, if your school runs on a similar timeline, use your winter break to get ahead on any essays or applications you’ll need when the due dates come around. You might also look ahead to summer break and start looking for summer internships, or at least start taking those first few steps towards preparing your applications if you plan to apply.

sleeping late

Do some self-care.
Regardless of how you plan to spend your break, it’s important to use it to rest and recharge before the start of the new semester. Sleep in a little, and get some extra rest. Watch a movie, have some hot chocolate, and enjoy a good book. You want to feel your best when you get back to class in January, so try to give your brain and body a chance to catch back up with you.

Winter break has always been one of my favorite parts of the year. I’ve just finished a difficult fall semester, and I finally have a chance to relax and be proud of what accomplishments I made through the fall months. I hope all of you get the chance to do that, too!