When Thanksgiving Break Extends into the New Year and Beyond

Perhaps your student was one of the fortunate ones, lucky enough to live at school during the fall semester, either on campus or in an off-campus apartment. Whether they were taking classes virtually, attending in person, or some hybrid of the two, it is very likely their college is sending them home for the Thanksgiving holiday and not welcoming them back to campus until it reopens in January or February.

What is an older teen/early twenty-something to do for two months to keep themselves entertained and educated, while wreaking minimum havoc on your household, especially if there are younger siblings in remote school and/or parents still working from home?  While the rest of your family may go back into their “new normal” routine, your college student will have a lot of free time.

While this longer-than-usual, stuck-at-home winter break poses unique challenges here are seven practical tips for them to take advantage of:

1. Read some classics.

  • Scour your bookshelves for your old favorites and pass them along.
  • If your student prefers to read electronically, there are free apps that allow you to read novels online. Even Amazon Kindle will grant access to classics at no charge.
  • Check out Project Gutenberg which has links to over 60,000 free publications. The list of Top 100 changes daily. Recent entries include Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, and Little Women. Bonus points to your student if they can explain why the website is called Gutenberg.
  • The local library should also have an ebook option, where students can borrow books at no charge.
  • Students can consider listening to books as well. Many classics will have several versions available with a choice of narrators. Again, the above sources all have a great selection of audiobooks. And, yes, “it counts” as reading the book if they listen to it. Some say that a reader can get an ever better understanding of a book when they listen to it, as they can better visualize, comprehend, and retain what they hear.
  • Find out if their spring semester classes have posted the required reading, and get it done in advance.


2. Binge Netflix.

No, not Tiger King. There are plenty of educational and historical offerings that are binge worthy.

  • David Atenborough’s eight part “Our Planet” is mesmerizing.
  • “Chasing Coral” sends you under the sea,
  • Sports fans can watch “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan; the “Battered Bastards of Baseball;” or “Screwball.”
  • Music fans can learn about the history of hip hop in “Hip Hop Evolution;” Martin Scorcese’s depiction of Bob Dylan in “No Direction Home;” and Taylor Swift fans should check out “Miss Americana.”
  • Historically speaking, “13th” is an Oscar-nominated documentary that looks at the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery; “Immigration Nation” profiles life crossing the Mexican border into the United States; “Civil War” is Ken Burns’ award-winning dive into this American war.


3. Get a job.

While working in a restaurant, retail store, or other typical short-term positions may not be on the approved list during the pandemic, there are plenty of things students can consider doing online. One option: tutoring. Is your student a Physics or Chem major? A math pro? With so much teaching being done virtually now, elementary, middle school, and high school students need more help than ever. Students can check out their town’s community pages on Facebook and post about  availability.

4. Learn a new skill.

Consider taking a class either through a community college or from an Adult Education school. Master magic tricks. Take an online cooking class. Learn to bartend. Take an online photography class. Find out about Red Cross certifications for lifeguarding and CPR. There are so many fun classes to choose from. Bonus: down the road, some of the skills could be marketable.

5. Plan for the future.

Whatever year your student is, they can work on their resume, and create or update their LinkedIn profile. Students can make some inquiries about a summer job or internship. The long break is an excellent time for students to spend some time on their  college’s career services website and see what else they should be getting in order.

6. Take care of their body.

  • Exercise: If your family has a Peloton, treadmill, or other exercise equipment, use it. Many gyms will offer free or reduced online class rates for students. Bundle up and go for a run outside. Walk the dogs.
  • Sleep: A good night’s sleep is restorative for everyone.
  • Make appointments to get their teeth cleaned, get their physical, and see the dermatologist and eye doctor.


7. Clean their room.

Go through all those tattered sports teams and camp tee shirts. Make piles to keep, donate, and toss. Look for clothes they could wear for an interview. Go through their trophies and save only the ones that truly celebrate an accomplishment.

And, finally, remind your students they are leaving their campus housing for a long time, with some uncertainty about what the spring semester will actually look like. They should bring home all their valuables, all their electronics and chargers, all their personal belongings that are not readily replaceable (clothes, books) and put their rooms in order (clean sheets, emptied trash) before they leave for home.