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Academic Coaching and Study Skills

Blog Post # 10: How Can I Make the Most Out of My Spring/Winter Break?

How Can I Make the Most Out of My Spring/Winter Break?

By: Chelsey Finney and Cody Rogers

Congratulations on finishing this past term! As students ourselves, we can just imagine the countless naps, coffee runs, study sessions, and peer support it took to tackle all the assignment deadlines and assessments. We also understand how hard of an adjustment it can be to go from having a packed daily schedule to a suddenly clear one (or so it seems). You may be facing a week off (for spring or winter break) or a couple of months off in between semesters. What do you do with all this time on your hands?  Luckily, we will be covering some activities to consider in conjunction with “downtime” in this post.

Reflect on the Past Semester

We know, the last thing you want to do is relive the trauma of exam and assignment season. But with every semester comes substantial room for individual and academic growth. Sometimes, this can be seen in your final course assignment grade, compared to your very first assignment’s grade. But what changes did you make between these assignments to make the outcomes different?

When reflecting on your past term, ask yourself these questions:

  • What were some courses you did well?
  • Why do you think you did well in these courses and not others?
  • What are some areas you can still improve in (e.g. study habits, time management, etc)?
  • Are there steps you can take to become more efficient in these areas?
  • If you had/have a job, how did you balance working alongside your course load?

Depending on how you feel, you can use these “work in progress” areas as jumping-off points for next semester. Speaking of which…

Plan for your Upcoming Semester Courses

If you are on a break between semesters (aka longer than a week or two), you can work ahead to make your next term less overwhelming by:

  • Reviewing the course syllabuses if they’re available
  • Finding and ordering the required textbooks early
  • Asking around to see which friends will be in the same courses as you, so you can organize a study group
  • Reading the first round of your assigned readings

In a way, these steps can be viewed as long-term planning ones. In our time-management post, we talked about how beneficial this range of organizing can be for excelling in your courses.

Similarly, if you are only on a shorter break (e.g. reading week or winter holidays), you can try out the following:

  • Blocking off all your upcoming due dates in your e-calendar or day planner accordingly
  • Beginning to outline or research for your next assignment
  • Catching up on the assigned readings you fell behind in

This can be considered short-term planning. In the same blog mentioned above, we outlined how beneficial this can be as well. Check it out!

Set Goals, such as SMART ones for yourself:

  • Specific: Which skill will you improve?

  • Measurable: How will you see improvement?

  • Achievable: Can you do it?

  • Realistic: Does it fit your current lifestyle?

  • Time-oriented: Set a time-line. “I will practice ______ for ___ days a week.

Discover new ways of managing stress and assignment deadlines, if you don’t already have effective ones

You now have time to practice self-care and push aside the stress of exams and assignments. Focusing on your well-being is a key skill to being a student when navigating the assignments, deadlines and tests. One skill we wrote on earlier we feel is valuable to maintaining composure during times of stress is mindfulness. 

Being able to take a moment to breath and let go of our worries is a valuable life-skill to have. We call it a skill because it is something that can be practiced and improved. It’s easier said than done to sit down and not worry about all of the school work that’s on your plate. Taking time during the holidays to practice being mindful will help you prepare to take on the next semester!

Picture of the Mindfulness Cycle graph

Excerpt on the meditation cycle from our earlier blog!

If you find yourself struggling to focus or stay on task with meditation, remember this cycle!

Like anything, meditation takes time, effort and practice. You will get distracted and notice your mind wandering. THAT’S OKAY!


Practice Self-care by Reinvesting in Hobbies

After coming off of a stressful season of final papers and exams it’s time to get some of your personal life back! Jumping into hobbies you enjoy is a great way to unwind, relax and rejuvenate. Read a book, play an instrument or binge that Netflix series you’ve been meaning to get to. Get together with friends and family for a game night or a family dinner. Getting back to what you enjoy will foster more positive emotions that will help you feel refreshed for next semester.

In our emotions blog, we mentioned the importance of excitement, curiosity and optimism has in learning. The holidays can be a great time to engage in the things you enjoy in life. Lending yourself to a positive mindset can not only make you more receptive to the learning environment, but also improve your overall mental health and ways of coping with academic stress.


NEW! Student self-enrolment modules in LEARN to enhance your learning skills!

Students have now a new online support 24/7! Self-enrollment to courses housed in LEARN is now available for students at Red River College Polytechnic. Academic Success Centre is offering this new suite of self-directed tutorials that provides relevant and helpful resources for the entire student cycle at college. Check our entire suite of modules here and enroll in as many topics as you like!


Happy Holidays!

Remember that the holidays are a time of rest and rejuvenation! Hopefully these tips that have helped us along the way as students will help you to get a handle on the next semester of your program, whether your headed into your second semester or your fourth!

We hope you’ve found these posts collectively insightful in more ways than one and that you are able to use them to succeed in your academic lives.

Have a safe and happy holidays,

From Chelsey and Cody!



Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367–1378.

Nasrullah, S., & Khan, M. S. (2015). The Impact of Time Management on Students' Academic Achievements. Journal of Literature, Language and Linguistics, 11, 60-71. Retrieved February 20, 2019