Especially if you’re a freshman, Cornell’s six-week winter break may sound like an incredibly long time to have almost no obligations. Even if your finals go until the last possible day of the semester and you are coming back to school early for Greek life recruitment, you’ll still have a full month at home. That’s half the length of summer break! If you haven’t already begun to think about what you’ll be doing to occupy your time, here are some activities that might keep you busy or, at the very least, get you out of bed each day.

1Make a list

First thing’s first: make a list of everything you want to do at home for your ideal winter break. While you may not get to all of it, it can’t hurt to be organized. Making a list ahead of time can also prevent you from regretting any down time you had because if you have always wanted to visit a certain museum or see a particular show, now’s your chance! You’ll also have no schoolwork to do, so make all the extra time worthwhile.

2Spend time with family and friends

While you probably saw your family and friends over Thanksgiving, you were home for less than a week. Plus, you had homework and impending finals to keep you busier than you would have liked. Winter break is a prolonged chance for you to spend quality time with the people who matter to you most. There’s no need to rush your visit because you have so many weeks. Be kind to your siblings and don’t take family dinners for granted—they missed you during the fall semester.

To pass time, relive high school weekends with your best friends. This period between semesters is a special time to reunite with your friends who attend schools all over the country and catch up with them about their new lives. Everyone (including you) has grown over the semester and winter break is a great time to both self-reflect and socialize.

3Get a job

What better way to spend a few weeks at home than making some quick spending money? Whether you babysit for a few families, work for your parents, or wait tables at a local restaurant, working will make you feel productive and accomplished while also helping your wallet. Plus, you can work in a social environment and either make new friends in town or recruit your old friends to get jobs alongside you. Just be sure to let your potential boss know that you can hold your position only temporarily.

4Volunteer your time

Working for money is good, but so is working to help your community. Especially around the holiday season, there are likely many opportunities to volunteer in your home town. Check the requirements to spend time in a soup kitchen or help plan events for an adult community center. Or, get involved with the efforts of your church or synagogue to bring food and warmth to families during the cold winter months.

5Catch up on TV

Cornell leaves little down time during the semester to spend days in bed. Finally, you have an excuse to binge-watch four different shows on Netflix at once. Do your friends at school continually talk about one particular show that you haven’t watched yet? Now is your chance to include yourself in those conversations. There’s nothing wrong with lounging for a few hours each day over vacation, so treat yourself by de-stressing with TV.


No, not your textbook. Pull out the list of books you really want to read but couldn’t find the time during the semester. There’s nothing like laying in bed for hours with a good book. Plus, if you are taking the relaxing/watching TV route over vacation, a book will provide a conversation topic with your grandparents and extended family when asked what you are doing with your free time.

7Make plans for summer vacation

If you’re like most college students, you probably still have no idea what you are doing this upcoming summer. While your workload is low, research job and internship positions or look into trips abroad if a semester abroad does not fit your academic plans. You can also use this time to work on your resume and reflect about the experiences you have had in college that can help you in the future.

8Help your family with holiday prep

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, your family will likely spend time together over winter break. Also, New Year’s is for everyone! Since you will probably be less busy than your younger siblings this time of year, make sure you offer your parents an extra hand in preparing for big holiday meals and extended-family gatherings. Supermarket shopping and setting the table are just as helpful as making the meal itself, so no worries if you can’t cook.

9Eat out and explore new foods

Unlike fall break when you probably had to rush around trying to get to all your favorite restaurants at home, here is your opportunity to knock off each food place on your list in a relaxed manner. Whether you are craving breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, use some of your spending money (see #3) to eat out with friends and family. There is even enough time to explore some new restaurants in the area, if you’re so inclined.


Counter all your eating expeditions with frequent trips to the gym. Start working on that spring break bod over winter break so that you’re ready when it finally gets warm in Ithaca. Also, healthy habits over break can only translate positively to the start of Spring semester. Join a gym or do workouts on your own by following Youtube video or magazine instructions.

11Enjoy the freedom

Finally, savor all the free time you have over break to sit and do nothing if you so choose. You won’t have another time in your life more relaxing than these few weeks until you hit retirement, so make the most of each and every moment at home. Regardless of what you choose to do with your time, you will probably feel more than ready to start another semester at school come January 25th.