The chaos of spring registration and the frantic buzz among students about upcoming final exams symbolizes that winter break is right around the corner. This is the time of the semester students are daydreaming of their winter break bucket list, which typically includes eating home cooked meals, cleaning laundry, watching their favorite shows for hours on Netflix, and spending time with family.
Although winter break is an important time to decompress, regroup and relax, it is also an opportunity for students to spend time on some things they have kept at the bottom of their to-do list. Listed below are ideas that students should consider adding to their winter break bucket list in order to prepare them for the next semester and their future. As an advisor, I keep these ideas in my “toolbox” when I talk with students during advising appointments close to winter break. Feel free to share these ideas with students in an end-of-semester email, on social media, in an advising meeting, or when you are talking with them in the residence hall!
Explore majors and career options. If a student is considering a different major, or perhaps has not chosen a major yet, this is the perfect time to explore majors and career options. Most university career centers have an online career assessment students can take for free, as well as a list of career exploration websites, such as O*Net Online and Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Explore experiential learning opportunities. A high GPA and a college degree is no longer enough to land a job. The job market requires students to have hands-on experiences and relevant skills. Encourage students to use their winter break as a time to gain experience. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Complete an internship. Shadow a professional. Participate in a community service trip. For students that do not want to gain experience over winter break, encourage them to set something up for the spring semester, such as an internship or research experience.
Prepare for graduate school. Students can explore graduate programs online, call universities to talk with a graduate coordinator or faculty member in the program, or even arrange an in-person meeting to visit the campus. Also, most graduate programs require a specific exam as part of the admissions requirements (i.e. GRE, GMAT, MCAT). Students can schedule to take their exam during winter break or focus on preparing for the exam.
Start the job search. Winter break can be the perfect opportunity to finally begin the job or internship search that many students avoid. Suggest that students set goals for themselves, such as “I will apply to five internships”, to keep them on track and to avoid feelings of being overwhelmed. If they have not done so already, students can follow-up with employers they met during the fall semester job fair. Students can also use this time to write their resume and cover letters, search for open positions, research employers, practice interviewing, or even arrange on-site interviews.
Network. Students can spend time setting up a LinkedIn profile, networking with professionals via social media, and arranging informational interviews. This is also a good time to clean-up the social media accounts so students can maintain a professional, appropriate image.
I hope this post has provided you with some new ideas that you can highlight during your interactions with students over the next few weeks. As always, I enjoy hearing thoughts and feedback, so please comment on the post especially if you recommend any other ideas to students about how to spend their time over winter break!
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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