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Thursday, December 5, 2019

8 Simple Tips to Make the Most of Your Winter Break

Don’t let the relief and relaxation wipe out your opportunities to grow.

Image credit: Pixabay | Pixabay license (

Winter break can feel like a black-hole of productivity, or a welcome respite from the struggle of the semester. But don’t let the relief and relaxation wipe out your opportunities to grow. Here, you’ll find some of the top tasks to set yourself up for success in 2020 and beyond. Bonus: you can do at least half of them while watching Netflix.

Check Your Degree Progress

Review major and school-wide requirements, and make sure you’re on track to graduate. To catch up or get ahead, review course offerings at nearby community colleges. You can save some scratch and knock out those core requirements, foreign language, or PE credits.

Start a LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is often the first stop for managers and recruiters seeking to hire. If you’ll be looking for an internship or job in the next year, it’s time to establish a professional web presence. Take a basic headshot and upload your resume. Which brings us to…

Update Your Résumé

If you don’t have one, start one. If you have one, make sure it’s up to date with your latest activities, academic honors, and work experience. Your college probably has a career counseling website chock-full of advice. When a recruiter says, “Shoot me your résumé,” it will be too late to start from scratch. Start now and spare yourself the scramble.

Find a “First Free Lesson” and Get Some Exercise

Studios that teach yoga, dance, or martial arts often provide a first lesson free or at very low cost. If you live in a larger metro area, you might be able to try several new activities over a couple of weeks. You’ll meet some new people, build the parts of your brain that thrive on new experiences, and get your blood circulating—all for virtually zero dollars.

Put Your Professional Pants On

Like your résumé, an interview-ready outfit isn’t something you want to throw together in the hours before you need it. See what’s already in your closet, figure out what fits. Make sure it’s clean and has all its pieces (buttons, belts). Don’t forget shoes. If you don’t already have what you need, hit up the second-hand stores in the wealthiest part of your town for unexpected deals. Buy a suit for $20 and spend another $30 to have it dry cleaned and tailored to fit you: better than brand-name or brand-new!

Create a Budget

The best time to learn how to manage money is when you don’t have very much to keep track of. Create a list of regular expenses (contributions to your tuition, meals off campus, gas for the car, club fees) and potential or actual sources of income (work-study, summer job, babysitting, savings). Don’t forget to include any debts. Calculate your net worth and set some realistic goals for improving your finances. Getting in this habit now will keep you on track, and help you avoid common overspending mistakes in your early career.

Thank Someone Who Helped You

Even when it feels like the whole world’s on your shoulders, it’s likely you had some key supporters, cheerleaders, and sponsors to help get you where you are. Take the time to write an email or—gasp! a handwritten card!—to a teacher, guidance counselor, or coach who encouraged or helped you. Include whatever specifics you can remember, and thank them sincerely for their role in how far you’ve come. The gesture will mean a lot to the person who receives it, and practicing gratitude is good for your mental health, too.

Check in with Your Civic Duty

If you’re 18, you’re likely eligible to vote and serve on juries. But we tend to forget about this stuff until the week before an election or when a summons arrives in the mail, and by then it might be too late to make necessary changes. Find out where your polling place is, and whether you’ll need an absentee ballot. Update your registration. Read up on the role of juries. This stuff is important.

  • Dr. Laura Williams  teaches communication strategy to undergraduates and executives. She is a passionate advocate for critical thinking, individual liberties, and the Oxford Comma.