You’ve turned in all your assignments, finished all your final exams and attended that very last class. Fall semester is complete.
Now, high schoolers can focus on the relaxing weeks of winter break. Winter break can provide students with the much-needed opportunity to take it easy and to give their minds a break from school work in between semesters.
Of course, while it’s important to unwind for a bit, students should be wary of totally shutting their minds off during this winter vacation. Avoiding brain drain is crucial, as it helps ensure students return for the spring semester with fresh minds to tackle the rest of the school year with success.
This is particularly important for high school juniors and seniors, whose academic performances face especially high stakes with college admissions staff.
So, what can students do to keep their minds active and still enjoy the downtime of winter break? Three current college students shared some suggestions and personal examples.
1. Read a book or book series: This idea might not sound immediately appealing to many students, as they do plenty of reading for their classes throughout the school year. However, required reading can feel like more of a chore than reading for pleasure, and busy school schedules often make it difficult for students to find the free time to do the latter. Enter winter break.
Surina Das, a senior at Arizona State University, recommended students read to keep their minds alert.
“Take this time to explore new authors and genres, and maybe find something new that you never expected to enjoy,” says Das. “I usually read at least one Jane Austen book each year, and usually during winter break while drinking a cup of tea and snuggling in my blanket.”
Something else to consider is choosing a book that is relevant to a part of your life or perhaps even a course you are taking in school. University of Missouri sophomore Olivia Bleeker says she used this tactic to help her stay fresh in her AP European History class.
“I picked a fictional book based on real historical events to read over break, so that while I wasn’t studying the actual material, my brain was staying informed of that time period and things that were happening during that time,” she says.
2. Engage in thoughtful conversation and activities with others: Sometimes, interacting with other people can be just the type of stimulation your brain needs to stay active. Bleeker recalled some creative ways to combine the chaos of family visits during holidays with ideas to fend off brain drain.
This included playing complex board games like Risk and Scrabble with out-of-town relatives, both exercising the brain and catching up with family members. She also found that simply talking with family could open up a world of interesting recollections and lessons.
“I would simply ask my older relatives to tell me stories about their past and when they were growing up. The stories I have heard really grown me as a person and given me a lot of different outlooks on life over my small perspective before having these conversations,” says Bleeker.
“Many times, keeping your brain active doesn’t look like secluding yourself off away from everyone else to solve a Rubik’s cube, but rather incorporating thought-provoking activities into your everyday activities instead of mindless ones,” she says.
3. Review class notes and get organized: There is no need to spend an inordinate amount of time during your vacation working ahead on school work, but there are likely at least a few small opportunities for you to make the back-to-school transition easier later.
Mackenzie Miller, a Tennessee Technological University senior, says she found this activity quite beneficial.
“Toward the end of break, I [found] it really helpful to look over the last chapter or two of my notes in any yearlong class. That way, the most recent information was fresh in my head and I wasn’t playing catch-up when the second semester started,” she says. “You can forget a lot in a week and a half of winter break in high school, and if you don’t keep up with reviewing, it only gets worse in college.”
Miller also suggested taking some time to organize things like your notes, planner and calendar.
“By keeping everything spaced out in my planner, I was able to keep up with my work and avoid all of the stress that would have come with it. Not only was I less drained, but I was getting my projects done so far in advance that I had time to relax and have fun,” she says. “Letting everything pile up eliminates any time to relax. Plan ahead by organizing your planner, and it’ll make your semester a breeze.”