10 Strategic Winter Break Activities for High School Students

A photo which illustrates International College Counselors share of winter break activities for high school students that can boost college admissions success.

For many high school students, winter break offers a highly-anticipated breather. High school life is busy and stressful with classes, study time, activities, and friends.

Yet, while students do deserve some rest time, they should not let opportunity pass them by. Winter break can present a valuable opportunity for high school students to engage in activities that bolster their college admissions profiles.

Here are some ideas for a student to make the most of winter break:

1. Internships or job shadowing: A short term internship or job shadowing opportunity in a field of interest offers students a chance to gain hands-on experience or observe professionals in action. This demonstrates initiative and a proactive attitude towards career exploration.

2. Community service: Students can clock time doing community service. Good places to look to are the public library, a nursing home, hospital, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, community center, or church/synagogue. There are also organizations with extensive databases looking for holiday help, including the United Way and VolunteerMatch. Volunteer work will be more enriching if it is done in an area of the student’s interest. Students can also explore virtual volunteering opportunities or remote internships with organizations aligned with their interests.

3. Studying for the SAT and/or ACTStudents can really, seriously improve their scores by doing a little test prep every day. It will be much easier to concentrate on SAT/ACT practice without the distractions of daily homework assignments. Both testing agencies offer free practice; find SAT practice here and ACT practice here.

4. Visiting colleges: The more colleges a student has a chance to see, the better, meaning even freshmen should do some visiting. Schools can be local or near a vacation destination. Winter break is not the best time to get a full campus flavor because college students are on their breaks, too. However, admissions offices are typically open the week before Christmas (though not the week after). So, after confirming that they’re open, visit schools that are not even on your student’s list just to get a sense of what different kinds of colleges feel like. Students on a stay-cation can take virtual college tours. (TYPE: “Virtual college tour college name” into Google and go from there).

5. Online courses and certifications: Students can enroll in online courses or pursue certifications related to their academic interests or future career goals. Platforms like CourseraedX, or Khan Academy offer a wide range of courses and showcase commitment to learning.

6. Language immersion: Participating in language immersion courses shows an appreciation of diversity and demonstrates cultural competence.

7. Developing a personal project or entrepreneurial venture: Having time to start a personal project or entrepreneurial venture is rare for many students. Whether it’s launching a small business, creating an app, or initiating a community service project, demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit showcases initiative and innovation.

8. Working on the college application: The early deadlines have passed, but there are many Regular Decision deadlines that haven’t; those are typically due in early January (some as early as January 1).

9. Searching for scholarships: Here is a link to a past blog with Tips for Winning College Scholarships.

10. Enjoying some down time: Like adults, students need some down time. Taking a break from the usual routine is crucial for students’ mental health and overall well-being. It’s a chance for them to step back, decompress, and focus on activities that bring them joy and rejuvenation like hobbies, spending quality time with loved ones, or simply resting and reflecting. It’s not just winter break; it’s a necessary pause that allows students to return to their studies refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges.

Work with International College Counselors

No matter where your family is in the college admissions process, International College Counselors can help you with every aspect, including connecting your student with interesting and relevant extracurricular activities and experiences for summer, the school year, and winter break, honing college applications, writing admissions essays, and preparing for admissions interviews. Call us at 954-414-9986 to discuss how we can support you and your family!