Winter break is a holy grail for tired college students who just came out of an entire semester of midterms, projects, and finals, not to mention dealing with a pandemic. This is a time to be spent with family and friends, but it can also be a very productive period. Here are my five tips to maximize your winter break. 1. Get a seasonal job. There are many department stores that are hiring seasonal associates to help with the influx of holiday shoppers. Working a few hours a day at a store will not only earn you some extra cash, but also valuable experience. I worked at Macy’s as a Holiday Associate last winter break and it was a very rewarding experience. I got to improve my customer service skills while dealing with different clients and learned more about the retail industry. I got trained with the Point-of-Sales system and got to understand how a big store like Macy’s dealt with transactions. Having a part-time job during winter break shows that you are productive with your time and can be a good way to keep your brain refreshed during a long period when you are not at school. 2. Apply for scholarships and internships and summer programs. A lot of scholarship and program deadlines are during the spring, so getting a head start on these applications when you have a month of free time will be beneficial. It gives you a chance to look at what the scholarship or program requires in the application, and allows you time to email professors for recommendations. Last year I applied to a few summer programs and contacted my professors for recommendations. Although school isn’t in session, many professors still check their emails and correspond with students, and asking for a recommendation early gives them more time to write it. Although most of the recruiting season is over by winter break, there are many firms in consulting that have spring recruiting seasons. Editing your resume and getting yourself ready for spring recruiting will alleviate your stress when the spring school semester starts. Some firms even have online applications, so applying over winter break may give you a head start on getting a rolling interview. Dedicating a few hours for a couple weeks of your break to applying for internships will save you so much time when recruiting season picks up when school starts. 3. Go on office visits/job treks. Winter break is the time to set up office visits and go on job treks. At UVA, the Career Center has job treks where a group of students will travel to a city and visit many companies in one industry like finance or marketing. The application for these trips are usually in the fall, but going on them is very useful for building up contacts at the companies you visit. This may not be possible in 2020, but it's worth checking out. Setting up office visits and shadowing opportunities during winter break is also an option. If you know someone at a company that you are interested in working at, asking to shadow them or visiting their office is a great way to learn more about their job and the company. This also builds your network at the firm and can be beneficial during the spring recruiting season. Taking a day or two out of your long winter break to do this will be rewarding in the long run. 4. Planning future classes. Taking time during your break to organize and figure out your schedule for the next semester and your overall plan for your college career can be helpful. Looking through the classes you are interested in taking and creating a spreadsheet to plan out your course scheduling will come in handy in the long run. I have an Excel spreadsheet with a list of all my major requirements and which classes I wish to take to fulfill them. I also used this opportunity to see if I could study abroad and created another schedule based on that. Working with your schedule and seeing what you can and can’t take will keep you organized. 5. Take time to relax and spend time with family and friends. During this time, get lots of rest, eat good food, and spend time with your family and friends. After a hectic semester and crazy year, this is a great time to reconnect with your high school friends and have fun with you family. The holidays are a time when everyone can come together, so make it a priority to spend quality time with everyone.