Mix-raced woman with curly hair in blue sweater, plaid coat outside in winter

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 exactly 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: How to Make Your Semester More Mindful

2. Clean up your school stuff

When is the last time you went through your backpack? Since the semester is over, you won’t be needing 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 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 the stressful finals season, 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 some hot chocolate and reading 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 food you want during the holidays but 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 some time giving back to your local community. Volunteer at organizations such as your local library, food bank, nursing homes, animal shelters, soup kitchen, 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: 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 in on college admission webinars since you have the time, and research majors and admission criteria to build and/or finalize your college list

9. Study for SAT or ACT

A little bit 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 coming up 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. Take the time to write a killer essay can literally 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 you may have. If you can’t physically visit any colleges, look at virtual tour options on the websites of your schools of interest.  

13. Find a short-term internship or job

This is a busy time of year for many businesses, so they could use the extra help. Look for research jobs and internships that only last for a couple weeks. Retailers need help during the holiday season for gift shopping and returns. Delivery services also need extra people. 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 up a couple of these activities during your winter break. It’s important to recharge for next semester, and while relaxing is vital, the key is balance! Complete something important and then reward yourself. It is possible to do both!

Check out the tag “winter break” 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!  

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college prep high school academics high school students second semester time management winter break

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.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find the school I am currently attending by consistently sending me emails of other schools. This allowed me to do research on other schools as well as the one I am in now!

Nikole Dixon

Nikole Dixon

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

Towards the beginning of last year, I was searching for scholarships to apply to through my school, town, websites online, and anything else I could find. I asked tons of questions [online] about scholarships and the best places to find them because I was desperate and I needed as many as I could find. I came across a ton of bogus websites but as soon as I found CollegeXpress, I knew I had to tell other people about it. It was definitely the most helpful site I came across, so I told my friends about it. . . . CollegeXpress is definitely a website worth giving as a source.

Rhiannon Teeter

Rhiannon Teeter

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2012

I have spent a lot of time aggressively searching for scholarships. It was a long and frustrating process until I found the CollegeXpress network. This site made my search so much easier. With the simple check of a few boxes, the site sorted out scholarships I was eligible for and led me directly to the correct websites. Winning this scholarship has definitely given me and my family some financial relief, and CollegeXpress has allowed me to improve my chances of winning further financial aid. Thank you so much!



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

College Matches