10 ways for students to stay on track over winter break

'Vacation' and 'productive' don't have to be mutually exclusive

Caroline Hopkins, Staff WriterCaroline Hopkins, Staff Writer

Your students are about to take several weeks off for winter vacation. Here are 10 projects you can encourage them to do over break.

1. Volunteer

Many colleges offer service-learning trips over winter break, but not all students take advantage of them. When promoting these opportunities, highlight the perks beyond giving back, such as forming friendships with new classmates and learning new skills.

What types of winter break trips do institutions offer?

2. Take a crash course

Taking an intensive course over winter break could allow a student to graduate faster, enhance their transcript, or explore a topic for fun that they wouldn't otherwise have time to learn. Online options can be convenient for students traveling home for the holidays.

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3. Apply for internships

If your students are looking to land internships this coming summer, they should consider applying over winter break. Many programs have January or February deadlines, and the busy start to next term will make it difficult for students to complete applications last minute.

Winter break downtime also gives students the opportunity to craft an application that's more thorough and contains fewer errors. Encourage students to request letters of recommendation from professors or past employers during this time as well. 

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4. Apply for scholarships

The same goes for scholarship applications—which can often be lengthy and require great detail. Winter break is an excellent time not only to complete scholarship applications, but also to scope out the college website for scholarship opportunities. Students might find they save hundreds of dollars after a little Googling. 

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5. Get courses in order

For students who may not have gotten into that course they hoped for next term, winter break is an opportunity to give it another shot. By periodically checking online or with the registrar over break, students can jump on any openings that appear.

Encourage students to email professors as well to request overrides into the courses they need. Remind your students that even if the website lists a course as closed, a professor or advisor might be able to squeeze them in—especially if that course will make the difference in a student's graduation time. 

How you can triage bottleneck courses during registration

6. Order textbooks early

Remember that mile-long line that extended outside of your campus bookstore last term? Encourage your students to avoid the wait by ordering textbooks ahead of time. 

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7. Restock school supplies

There's a high chance your students have used up, lost, or abandoned many of the notebooks, pens, and folders they purchased back in September. Suggest that students replenish these necessary supplies so they're prepared for their first day back in January. 

One necessary item students may not be able to afford? An interviewing suit

8. Sort out housing arrangements

Students should take the necessary steps to renew leases, communicate with roommates, and familiarize themselves with your school's housing system over break. Is there a lottery for dorm assignments? These can be complicated, and students who review them won't be blindsided in the coming months. 

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9. Reflect on the past semester

It's no secret that most students like to mentally check out after their last final exam in December, vowing to "never look at another econ problem again" or perhaps ritualistically tossing their class notes into a fireplace. Advise your students against doing so.

Instead, encourage students to reflect on their past semester, pinpointing the areas they struggled with and assessing why. They'll be able to use this insight constructively going forward, to select courses and identify the study tactics that work best. 

How reflection periods improve internships

10. Visit the next generation

Many college students end up spending winter break in their home towns, where their old high schools are still in session. Encourage students to go in and speak with their high schools' current senior classes about the college experience. This is a subtle way to increase admission rates, since a positive review of your institution from a current student could very well encourage a high school senior to apply (Harwood, Daily Pennsylvanian, 11/15; Ilyas, Daily Illini, 12/5; MSU Reporter, 12/1).

Turn high school partnerships into college enrollments

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