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13 Tips for Winter Break and Second Semester Success

Setting yourself up for success over winter break can help you start second semester with less stress. Here are 13 things you can do during your time off!

The first semester of the year is over. Congratulations, you made it! You’re halfway through the school year, which we’re sure was extremely busy between classes, studying, extracurriculars, and friends. You deserve a break after a difficult semester; however, it’s also important to take advantage of the time off you have now to create a successful path forward in your academic and personal life. Here are 13 ways to set yourself up for second semester success in high school.

1. Reflect on your first semester

Think back on how your first semester went. Assess where you did well in your classes and where you could improve. Make specific plans on what you can do to improve next semester; this way you can develop and grow as a student. Set goals for what you’d like to accomplish in the next semester, and try to stick to them. 

Related: 7 Easy Ways to Make Your Semester More Mindful

2. Clean up your school stuff

When was the last time you went through your backpack? Since the semester is over, you won’t need a lot of material for a while, especially if you’re switching to new classes next semester. Winter break is the perfect time to go through your backpack, folders, and notebooks to remove what you don’t need and reorganize what you do. Who knows, you may even find the $10 you lost weeks ago! 

3. Plan ahead and get ahead

Plan out what you think the next semester will look like. You may not know exactly what to expect from your classes, but getting an idea will help you avoid being taken by surprise. Start reading ahead for any classes you’ll be continuing into spring semester. Work on any future assignments you already know about so you’re ahead of the game when the school year picks back up.

4. Spend time with your family and friends

During your stressful final exams, have you been neglecting some of your relationships? Use your winter break to spend time with your parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends to grow your relationships and find comfort in them while you have the time. Play board games, watch movies, give them an extra hug, and make memories with your loved ones to go into next semester in a positive mindset. 

Related: 3 Tips to Maintain Healthy Family Relationships in College

5. Read a book

Even if you aren’t a big reader, spend some time with a good book. Cozying up under a blanket with hot chocolate and an engaging story is the perfect way to spend a cold winter day. Reading helps with vocabulary, memory, standardized testing, and reducing stress. Think of it as a mental exercise to keep you sharp during your time off.  

6. Make time to exercise

If you haven’t been exercising this semester, winter break is the perfect time to pick up your workout routine again (or build a new one!). This way you can eat whatever you want during the holidays and still feel physically good. You don’t have to wait until the New Year to start; resolutions are overrated anyway.  

7. Volunteer

The holiday season is the time to make a difference, so spend time giving back to your local community. Volunteer at organizations such as your local library, food bank, nursing homes, animal shelters, soup kitchens, etc. This looks great on college applications, especially if you’re passionate about the organization. It shows you’re ready to put time and effort into a cause greater than yourself. You’ll also feel good about yourself and the impact you’re making. 

Related: Give the Gift of Volunteering: 7 Opportunities for Winter Break 

8. College research

It’s never too early to start researching for college. Especially if you’re a junior, it’s important to start thinking about college if you haven’t already. Have discussions with your parents about your options. Join college admission webinars while you have the time, and research majors and admission criteria to build or finalize your college list

9. Study for SAT or ACT

A little (or a lot of) test preparation can seriously increase your scores, especially when you have the time to really focus on it. Even if it’s just a practice test or a bit of extra reading, use these two weeks to get ahead on your studying. If you’re an upperclassman, your test date in the spring will be here before you know it!

10. Update your résumé

Spend an afternoon updating your SAT scores, GPA, class rank, extracurriculars, and any other achievements from this semester on your academic résumé. Periodically updating your résumé when you have spare time is a lifesaver when it comes time to apply to college. 

Related: How to Craft the Perfect High School Résumé 

11. Work on college applications and scholarships

If you’re a high school senior, you should work on your college essays or detail your extracurricular activities during break. Regular application deadlines are approaching fast, and you need to be ready. Scholarships are also offered year-round, so take advantage of the extra time to research and find scholarships that you qualify for. Taking the time to write a killer essay can pay off big time.

12. Visit some colleges

Although you won't see many students on campus, you could use this time off from school to visit potential colleges to get a feel for the environment. Even if you don’t have time or money to travel far, visiting local colleges will give you an idea of what campuses are like. Admission representatives are usually still at work, so you can meet with them and ask any questions. If you can’t physically visit any colleges, look at virtual tour options for your schools of interest.  

13. Find a short-term internship or job

This is a busy time of year, and businesses could use the extra help. Look for research jobs and internships that only last for a couple of weeks. Retailers need a few more hands during the holiday season for gift shopping and returns. Delivery services also need workers who are able-bodied and can drive. You can gain some experience, meet new people, and earn some extra money! 

Related: Need a High School Internship? Here's Where to Look

Be productive and take on some of these activities during your winter break. But relaxing is also vital—you need to feel recharged for next semester, after all. The key is balance! Complete something important then reward yourself. It is possible to do both even in the short amount of time you have!

Check out the “winter break” tag for more ideas and tips on how to spend your time this holiday season between semesters. We hope you have a restful but productive break from school!  

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About Sydney Mathew

Sydney Ann Mathew is a student at Shadow Creek High School in Texas. She’s an academically successful student, participating and holding office positions in a variety of organizations and clubs. At the age of nine, Sydney won first place in a city-wide invention competition. Her invention currently has a “patent pending” status and is in the process of being approved. Sydney enjoys attending church and singing in the youth choir. She volunteers in her local neighborhood community and was instrumental in starting a chapter of Color Cycle, a national recycling initiative, at her elementary school. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys spending time with family and friends, dancing, and playing basketball, volleyball, and the piano. She also writes and uses poetry to convey her emotions and feelings. After high school, she plans to pursue a career in business.


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