What to Do Over Winter Break: Tips for Every Grade

Discover how to make the most of your winter vacation

Congratulations, you’ve made it to winter break! The first half of the school year has been rocky for many of you. But you persevered and made it through. I hope you’re feeling healthy and happy with your success over the past few months.

Now you’re facing winter vacation and a much-deserved break from school. How are you planning to spend your time off?

You could spend the entire time scrolling social media, playing video games, or bingeing old TV shows, but that’ll leave you feeling like a couch potato. And besides, an ambitious student like you wants to be consistently moving toward your goals.

So I’m here to encourage you to do both—spend some time relaxing, but also do a bit of college and career planning. Striking the right balance of rest and productivity is the best way to make the most of your winter break. You’ll feel proud of how you spent your vacation.

Keep reading to explore my suggestions for rest and recovery, as well as my expert college and career planning tips for each grade level.

How to care for your mind and spirit during winter break

Whatever grade you’re in, you deserve a serious break after the past four months of school. Winter vacation is the perfect time to focus on self-care so you’re refreshed and ready to start the new year strong.

Here are five suggestions to help your mind and spirit recover while you’re at home.

1. Give your brain a break by doing something fun!

It’s a major understatement to say that this year has been stressful. You need a mental and emotional break from the stress and pressure of 2021. That’s where winter break comes in.

Without a proper pause to let your mind recover, you risk burning out in the spring. That’s the last thing you want! Instead, take a mental vacation so you’ll have the energy and bandwidth to finish the school year strong. 

Everyone has their own definition of what’s fun to them. But here are a few fun activity ideas in case you need them.

  • Have a movie marathon with a friend
  • Read a good novel
  • Play in the snow
  • Go on a hike
  • Host a board game night

The point is to do something that doesn’t have an academic purpose. It’s important to give your mind this break and have a fun time!

2. Reflect back on 2021

I love to end each year by looking back on everything I’ve done in the last twelve months. Life moves so quickly that we rarely take the time to sit quietly and reflect. 

So here’s what I suggest. Make a cup of hot cocoa or tea for yourself. Settle into a quiet and cozy part of your house. Then ask yourself the following series of questions. Write down your responses.

  • What went well this year? 
  • What accomplishments am I most proud of?
  • What do I wish would’ve gone differently?
  • What can I learn from my mistakes?
  • What habits do I want to continue in 2022?

You’ll probably identify a few areas you want to improve in. So brainstorm what strategies you can try. For instance, was focusing on homework hard? Create a new, distraction-free study space for yourself. 

And when you identify your successes of 2021, celebrate those! We need to be proud of our wins.

3. Set goals for 2022

Once you’ve fully processed this year, it’s important to start looking forward to the next. Thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2022 will help you have a more fulfilling, successful year.

I like to set goals in different categories of my life. This keeps me moving forward in the directions that matter to me. I’ll share some categories and example goals for you to consider.

  • Academic—earn a 4.0 GPA
  • College—win a scholarship
  • Career—get a part-time job or internship
  • Personal—build more confidence
  • Social—deepen a relationship
  • Extracurricular—move into a club leadership role

Once you’ve chosen your goals for 2022, write them down and display them in a place you’ll see every day. Maybe that’s on your bathroom mirror or at your desk. You want to have a regular reminder of what you’re aiming for.

It also helps to share your goals with a friend or family member. They can keep you accountable and encourage you to achieve your goals.

4. Spread holiday cheer by doing something for others

There are a lot of people in your community who could use some help or encouragement this time of year. Winter break is a great time to do something kind for your neighbors. 

Look around your community and see what you can do. Every place is different, but here are a few activities students can get involved in during winter break. 

  • Donate clothes, books, and toys to a local charity
  • Volunteer in a soup kitchen or food pantry
  • Collect canned goods for a food drive
  • Go caroling around your neighborhood
  • Call your elderly relatives
  • Send cards to residents of a local nursing home

You’ll find that as you do a good deed for someone else, you end up feeling happier, too.

5. Challenge your mind with something new

Even though it’s good for your mind to take a small vacation, you don’t want it to sit completely dormant for too long. Give it a small and fun challenge to keep the gears turning.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting a new hobby or learning more about an interesting topic. Winter break is the perfect time for that!

If you’re not sure how to keep your mind engaged during winter break, here are a few ideas.

  • Memorize your favorite poem or rap song
  • Work on a book of sudokus or crossword puzzles
  • Solve a Rubiks cube
  • Watch some old Jeopardy episodes
  • Solve a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle

These activities present you with a small challenge while still being different enough from school that you can enjoy them. 

Now that we’ve explored some good ideas for refreshing your mind and spirit over winter break, let’s look at what else you should do to stay on track for college.

College and career planning tasks for 12th grade

  • Follow up with all your college application requirements to ensure you’ve completed everything necessary to maximize your admissions odds.
  • Check if all colleges have received your FAFSA info or if they need more financial information from you.
  • Start making summer plans. Think about what internships, summer bridge programs, work opportunities, or community service options would serve you best.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile. You’ll continue building and expanding it in college.
  • Make a list of the achievements and experiences you want to fit in before graduation. These final high school memories will last you a lifetime.
  • Apply for outside scholarships! Don’t let finances hold you back from attending your dream school.

College and career planning tasks for 11th grade

  • Research colleges and add them to your college list. Now’s the time you want to have a lot of schools on there. You’ll narrow down your options later on.
  • Think about your major options. Research some of the careers you’re interested in and their educational requirements. O*NET is a fantastic resource.
  • Talk to your parents about visiting colleges over spring and summer break. Maybe you can combine a family vacation with a college road trip!
  • Prepare for the SAT or ACT. Choose your test date and make a comprehensive study plan
  • Start making summer plans. The summer before senior year is important. Research which dual enrollment classes, pre-college programs, or work opportunities would be best for you.
  • Apply for outside scholarships.

College and career planning tasks for 10th and 9th grade

  • Take interest and career assessments to see which types of occupations fit your strengths and personality.
  • Evaluate your high school academic plan and add something that will challenge you. Consider AP classes, dual enrollment options, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses.
  • Talk to your parents about college. Get on the same page about what you want and what they envision for you.
  • Make an extracurricular plan for your remaining high school years. What accomplishments and leadership roles do you want to achieve?
  • Apply for outside scholarships. Yes, there are plenty available to students in your grade level! 

Final thoughts on what to do over winter break

Once again, congratulations on making it this far through the school year. I hope you’re as excited for winter break as I am! Use these ideas to rest, refresh your mind, and make a bit of progress on your college and career goals. 

I want to hear from you! What are you most excited about for winter break? Share in the comments below.

Posted in