Alternatives to Going Home for Winter Break

Consider a few alternatives to going home during college winter break.

Flickr user Lordcolus

Winter break. Possibly one of the most look-forward-to aspects of college. Your Thanksgiving break was okay, and you might have had a long weekend here or a fall break there, but nothing equals the weeks in between your first and second semester. While it is tempting to just go home and relax for a while, there are actually quite a few things that you can be doing over winter break. Some things, of course, are available only if you can stay around campus during college winter break, but even if you have to go home because you’re in the dorms, you can find new things to do.

Research Scholarships

With the beginning of a new fiscal year, a new round of scholarships opens up. This is the point in time when you should be researching your school scholarships because as someone about to become an upperclassman you will be eligible for more of them. You might consider looking into major-specific scholarships, or you might just look at what is available for example sophomore or Junior. Most college departments will have their own available scholarships for their students. In addition to school scholarships, there are also scholarships at the Federal National level. Just because you missed out on something before your first year, doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up more scholarships now. Regardless of where the scholarships are coming from, winter break is a great time to delve into them and figure out which ones you want to go for and set aside time to apply to them.

Look for Jobs/Internships

Much like researching scholarships, winter break gives you ample time to look for internships over the summer. It is the unfortunate reality of our current society that unpaid internships are often the gateway to better jobs after graduation. Therefore, participating in an internship during the summers between spring and fall semesters is a great way to gain work experience. Now, some internships will be paid. But you do have to look really hard for them. Keep track of all of the application data: When is the application due, when does it open up for new applicants, what are the requirements, do you need to ask for letters of recommendation? This is also a good time to go over your resume, especially if you either haven’t made one or you haven’t adjusted it since your last job.

Take a Class

Depending on the length of your college winter break, you might have classes available to take between semesters. These classes usually aren’t very many credits, but it does help to lighten the load overall. If you are on campus for break, or if you can take an online class, then that is one or two-semester hours that you do not have to take spring or fall semester. Keep in mind that due to the short length of winter breaks, many of these classes are very intensive and take a few hours a day.


If I’m being honest, I always looked forward to working over winter break because it meant a larger paycheck between semesters. Now, this could be you working at your old job back home, or it could be staying around campus and working your new job. If you have recently started a new job, it’s a great training time because winter break usually means there aren’t as many people hanging around campus. It also means that you get to train in a less stressful environment. Regardless, it’s a great opportunity to earn some extra spending money or help pay for books for the upcoming semester.

Prepare for Spring Semester

Obviously you don’t want to go out and purchase all of next semester’s textbooks before classes start. Professors can change their mind, or it could be that you end up not really needing the book. You can also possibly get it from a different source such as online or borrowing from another student. However, if you have spoken to the professor or the rubric seems gridlocked in, college winter break is a great opportunity to get ahead on school work. Particularly with literature books, it is useful to read them early on so that way on the second read-through during the semester, you have a better understanding of the characters and the events. Even with textbooks, it is useful to prove them and get a feel for how the information is organized.
Another useful thing to do is map out your next semester. Some professors will have provided rubrics and calendars for their classes early on. By using these to input all of your major tests and assignments into your own calendar, you will be better prepared for the upcoming semester. Staying organized is a very helpful way to maintain your sanity and good grades. You don’t want to be caught napping because you forgot about an assignment due within the first month of classes.

Travel a Little

Whether it’s with your friends from high school or your new college friends, traveling is a great way to spend breaks. Depending on where you live, of course, college winter break might not be the optimal travel time for all activities. However, making weekend getaways to the ski slopes is a great way to maintain bonds as well as have a little fun.

Don’t Relax Too Much

While having a little fun and relaxing is vitally important to de-stressing yourself after your first semester, you don’t want to lose the mentality you have gained by the end of fall semester. When you come back for spring semester you need to be in the same mindset that allowed you to do all that work and cram for those finals and write those papers. Try to keep a similar schedule. Don’t stay up all night just because you don’t have classes for the next few weeks. If you change your sleep habits, it will only be more rough to start classes again.

Join Pep Band (If Applicable)

Okay, so this is a little more time commitment than just winter break. However, if you are a band geek and enjoy watching sports (and sometimes the latter isn’t even necessary), then consider participating in pep band. Depending on your school, it could mean you get to travel a little come March Madness. Not to mention some schools will give you a travel stipend for winter break games. Even if you aren’t allowed back in the dorms, upperclassmen will likely be able to give you a place to stay if they’re off-campus.
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