We have welcomed our returning college students with open arms, not flinching at the mountain of dirty clothes and dorm stuff they drag (and leave) into front hallways. But as the winter break inches along, parental goodwill toward nearly grown kids who have time on their hands wears thin.
Arguments over curfew, drinking and sleeping arrangements can easily upend family harmony. But even if those landmines are avoided, there is often a mismatch between parents who are super busy and kids who seem to log loads of time on the couch.
How can parents motivate college kids to accomplish something, anything, over the winter break? Print out the following 31 ideas, tape it to the fridge and leave a second copy under the remote control.
31 Ideas for College Kids That Will Get them Off the Couch (and Out of the Doghouse) During Winter Break
1. Create a Linkedin profile – Linkedin is ground zero for many employers who scan the database for students whose qualifications match their needs. Some jobs require Linkedin just to apply. Find a suitable (not holding a solo cup) profile picture and create an account.
2. Update your resume – if you’ve not needed a resume to get your summer jobs while in high school, college is the time to start one. If you need help, here is a good source with links to templates.
3. Spend time with younger siblings – you may not realize how much you’ve been missed by your younger siblings now that you’re away at school. You will always be their much-admired big brother or sister so go for breakfast or see a movie together – make memories this winter break for both of you.
4. Visit grandparents – other than your parents, these adults have loved you with all their hearts since your very first breath. Take the time to visit them, offer to help around their house, take them out to lunch with some of their friends. Let them get to know you as the wonderful adult you have become.
5. Take the car in for servicing – is there a family car that you are allowed to use when you’re home? When does the inspection sticker expire? Does the oil need changing? How about getting it washed? Take part in the maintenance of the car and, if your parents are letting you drive it back to college this fall, look at this checklist to make sure you are ready for the road trip.
6. Gather and sell old electronics – chargers, old iPods, phones, cases, games and game systems, CD’s can all bring money if you spend a little time and research who buys what. This New York Times article, How to Sell or Recycle Old Electronics, provides loads of resources and, of course, the Amazon Trade In Program is a one stop shop for trade-ins.
7. Look for a job – finding a job (for the month, the summer, post-college) is high up on every college student’s to do list. If you haven’t clicked onto your college career office website, do that today as you may need to create an account to use the services. According to this college dean, career services is un underutilized area on all campuses that undergraduates should begin using from freshman year on. You cannot start the process too soon.
8. Get a jump on reading for next semester – do you have any courses that will be reading-intensive? Why not get a jump on academics by picking one of the books off the reading list and finishing it before you step foot in the class. Besides, you can never waste time reading a quality book.
9. Go through high school mementos and cull them – clutter is the enemy and you are the only one who can fight the battle between what stays and what goes in your old room. Perhaps some of those programs, pictures, knickknacks that once seemed so precious to you have lost a little luster. Time to trash things now.
10. Make a digital book of family vacations – when was the last family vacation that you took with your parents and siblings? Why not create a photo book with pics that are living on your phone? If you want to save the project for Mother’s or Father’s Day, you will be way ahead with this project in the bank. Apple makes it incredibly easy to do this in an afternoon.
11. Find a then pic and stage a now pic – speaking of pictures, locate an old photo of you and your siblings and recreate one with all of you. You may think it’s a bit corny but your parents will love it.
12. Research study abroad options – if you’re planning on studying abroad, this is the ideal time to research programs, both ones that your college offers and others that are available elsewhere. Ask around for recommendations from other college students you know and see what advice they have for you.
13. Make money babysitting, cutting grass, tutoring – industriousness is a great life virtue and, though you may be reveling in your ability to sleep late and watch Netflix at whim, you will appreciate the extra money in your pocket when you return to school.
14. Get a certification – look at the Red Cross website or visit your local YMCA and see if there are any programs offered that can lead to certification in CPR, first aid, lifeguarding.
15. Research graduate programs and requirements – you may find it hard to see beyond winter break, but if you think that graduate school is in your future somewhere down the road, take the time to look at a few university websites. Look at entrance exams, average GPAs, undergraduate course work required, firms that recruit at the school…. understanding more about grad programs might give you more focus in your current course of study.
16. Resell old textbooks from high school or college – see what the going rate is and try to sell them. Amazon has a textbook buy-back program that let’s you discover any value to the bulky books taking up space on the shelf.
17. Consign or donate clothes – are any of your clothes or accessories consignment-worth? Alternatively, if they are still wearable but you no longer have any need for them, look for a Goodwill, or local charity that can use what you no longer need.
18. Learn to cook – time in the kitchen is never wasted and the best way to learn to cook is to, simply, cook. Your parents have been the ones planning, shopping for and preparing meals for decades. Why not take over the responsibilities for a few evenings and master some new recipes at the same time? Here are a five from our friend and favorite cookbook author, Katie Workman.
19. Take a few yoga classes – finding a way to de-stress in college, and beyond, is crucial and yoga might just become your go-to technique. If you have never tried it, find a local studio that offers an introductory class (maybe for free?) and start to learn the basics.
20. Create an exercise routine – if you’re already a regular gym-goer, don’t slack off while you’re home. If you’ve never gotten in the habit, this could be a perfect time to begin to exercise so that when you return to campus, you bring this healthy new habit back with you after summer break. One easy way to start is through a 7-minute workout. Here’s the science behind it and the app to download that requires no equipment and minimal time.
21. Set goals – it’s the perfect time to think about what you hope to accomplish this summer and next school year.
22. Create a budget – you have at least one semester in the bank now and know what expenses you incurred that you might not have expected. Create a spreadsheet and sit with your parents to review your financial needs for the spring semester.
23. Plan a family excursion – although winter break feels like it will go on forever, there are only so many weekends when your entire family might be free to gather for an excursion. Look for a sporting event, a concert or play. Make reservations for brunch. Find a museum exhibit. Plan a hike and surprise everyone with a thermos of hot chocolate and cookies you’ve baked. These are memories your family will cherish.
24. Assemble two interview-worthy outfits – when it’s time to meet with a recruiter, you need to project a professional appearance. Go through your closet and see what fits, what needs to be tailored and cleaned. If you need to shop, hit the stores that offer student discounts and don’t forget that you need to invest in grown-up looking shoes, too.
25. Find a reason to get the old gang together – have you kept in touch with your high school friends or do you find those relationships to be slowly drifting away? Take the initiative, send out a few texts and plan a night to go out for pizza or sushi.
26. Doctors appointments – you may have seen your pediatrician before you left for college but have you outgrown the office with the toys scattered around the waiting room floor? Talk to your parents about switching to an internist for your next appointment. While you are at it, do you need to see your dentist, a dermatologist, the eye doctor? Stop asking your mom to make these appointments for you and get them on your calendar.
27. Fall internships – Are you considering looking for internship next spring? Do some research now while you have time so you don’t miss an opportunity when you get busy once you’re back at school.
28. Check in with your high school guidance counselor – you can be a helpful resource for a current high school student either while you are home or back on campus with a future college visit. Let your counselor know you are willing to offer advice and counsel.
29. A dose of culture – are there museums in your hometown (or nearby) which you haven’t visited since you were in 3rd grade? Maybe it’s time to give culture another shot.
30. Give your dog a bath – remember how much you missed your dog when you first went away to school and how happy you are to have your pup snoozing by your side while you’re watching TV on the couch? Take on the messy responsibility of bath time and enjoy the one-on-one with your best buddy.
31. Look for scholarships – there is no denying that college is expensive and, by helping you pay for an education, your parents are giving you a truly life-changing gift. Why not demonstrate your gratitude by seeing if there are ways you can supplement their generosity by researching scholarships? Start here: