The end of October is within sight, which means before you can blink, you’ll be studying for finals and saying “sayonara” to fall semester. Though you might be looking forward to the handful of breaks in front of you, you should remember that your undergrad education is on a timer; if you think this semester is going fast, you should consider how much college you have left – and it probably won’t be nearly as much as you expected.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to maximize the time you have left before you leave school and enter the real-world job market. Here are a few things you can do this winter break to prepare you for your future outside of academia.
Apply for Summer Internships
Just as fall semester was gone in a flash, spring semester won’t last long. Thus, if you hope to gain work experience this upcoming summer through a season-long internship, you need to start taking steps now. Your first-choice employers are beginning to post their internship openings, which means you need to get ahead of your competition and apply ASAP. Winter break offers an excellent amount of free time to compile your application materials without competing with more pressing responsibilities like homework and tests. Just make sure you double- and triple-check your resume before you submit; winter break brain can be more relaxed and more apt to make mistakes.
Volunteer With Local Orgs
Whether you are staying put or traveling home for winter break, you should find at least one organization to volunteer with for the duration. Volunteering experience looks great on any application – from graduate school to real-world jobs and from summer internships to university clubs. Ideally, your volunteerism should be related to your field of study, but this isn’t super critical. What’s more important is that you develop a lasting relationship with your volunteer organizer, so they might write you a recommendation letter at some point in the future.
Sell (or Study) Old Textbooks
You don’t need us to tell you that textbooks are expensive. After a couple semesters at school, you might have thousands of dollars–worth of books stacked up in your room, and it’s time to get a return on that investment. During winter break, you should sort through your old textbooks, making two piles: one of books that you will continue to need in your studies and one of books that you will never touch again. The latter category can be taken back to your university bookstore or else resold on websites like Chegg or Amazon, while the former category should be perused while you have spare time.
Enroll in Winter Courses
Winter semester is a great time to rush through classes that don’t mean much to your degree, like token math and language credits. Those of you pursuing online undergraduate degrees should be able to sign up for winter courses relatively easily, even this late in the semester. More traditional programs have stricter rules regarding winter studies, so you might need to find outer sources of winter education besides your current school. You can check the web for short-term courses that your school will accept as credit, or you can check with your local community college for winter term openings in your field.
Update Your App Docs
Your resume and cover letter templates are not set-and-forget documents; they should be living and breathing, changing constantly as you accrue new experiences, skills and credentials. You should take this break in your academic career to shore up your likely outdated documents. Then, when you need to apply for something, you can spend less time adding your accomplishments and more time tailoring your document to the specific position you want.
Pare Down Your Possessions
Sooner or later, you will be moving out of your current lodgings. Whether you are enjoying your college life from your childhood bedroom, a dorm room or a big-kid apartment, you will probably relocate in the next few years, if not the next few months. If you don’t feel like doing anything else to contribute to your academic or future career, you should at least sort through your belongings and get rid of stuff you don’t need. If you can, recycle some of your possessions into holiday gifts for friends and family — then you can save money while you’re at it.
There are plenty of things you can do to relax this winter break, but you should also try to fit in some functional effort. Accomplishing one of the above tasks will help you be more organized in the coming spring and set you up for success later in life.