8 Tips for How to Use Thanksgiving Break Effectively

Yay! This week is Thanksgiving Break! Three days off from school, a super long weekend, friends and family to see, tons to eat…and homework to do?!

Yikes! I thought this was a BREAK!!

First year (and even second year) college students tend to see Thanksgiving break as a welcome vacation from academic stress and exhaustion (and at this time of year, everyone can use some extra sleep). Many of my advisees have taken the entire week off, skipping classes Monday and Tuesday to get a head start on their “vacation.” If they asked me whether this was a good idea, I would say: absolutely not. There is work due and the assignments due after Thanksgiving are often clarified right before break begins in the classes they are missing. If you are not there, you miss all of this importance information. Professors may even offer extra credit to students who show up to class that Monday or Tuesday. If you’re not there, you won’t get that either.

Part of the problem with students’ understanding of Thanksgiving Break is the view that it is “Time Off” from school. It is not this at all. Thanksgiving Break is a BREAK from classes and only from classes. It is NOT time off from academics. In fact, students will have a large chunk of work due either directly before OR directly after Thanksgiving Break. And I do mean directly after break…like, the Monday after break.

The tendency to see Thanksgiving Break as “Time Off” leads students to ignore their syllabi, until Sunday night when they get back to school, or worse, Monday morning.

Thanksgiving Break has to be seen as a “Working Break” rather than Time Off. It is a difficult thing to balance the work with the break, but it has to happen. Often, too much break and not enough work will leave a student MORE tired than before break and MORE behind in work. With the end of the semester rapidly approaching, being more fatigued and more behind in work is never a good thing.

Here are 8 Tips for How to Use Thanksgiving Break as Effectively as possible:


  1. PRE-BREAK: look at all of the work (big assignments and small) you have due and put a detailed listed of that work in your planner. If you have the detailed list in your planner, then you only have to take the planner home with you and not every syllabus and/or every binder.
  2. Make a study schedule for break. You know that you will have to spend time with family and you may want to spend time with friends. BUT you also know you will have work to do. Schedule work and social activity by the hour, as usual. See the following tips for making a good schedule.
  3. Be reasonable about what you can accomplish over break. Do not commit to writing three papers and reading ahead in all of your classes. This won’t happen. You can, however, commit to beginning outlines for three papers (3 outlines at 1-1.5 hours each = 3-5 hours) and doing the reading for Monday-Wednesday of the week after break. Thanksgiving Break looks long but it goes by very quickly. Getting several small homework tasks completed or beginning a few larger assignments will help your post-Thanksgiving work load immensely.
  4. Do not leave you room after you have woken up. Stay and work for a couple of hours before people know that you are awake…they will want to bug you if they know you are up and around. If you can get a few hours of uninterrupted time before seeing people, you are more likely to get something accomplished. If you say “Oh, I’ll wait until the evening”…you’ll be far too tired by then and won’t get anything done.
  5. Schedule meal times with friends and family. You have to eat, so make these times social. You can take an elongated meal time to catch up with people without cutting into your work time.
  6. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up at a reasonable hour. Sleeping the entire day is completely counterproductive. You will only get more tired and, as a consequence, sleeping will keep you from doing work. Then, when you return to school you will be more stressed because you will be behind in work instead of on top of things. This is not the time of year you want to fall behind.
  7. Know that Thanksgiving Day is pretty much a goner. This is a day where getting an hour or two of work done in the morning, before leaving your room, is a great idea. Do reading or some math problem sets…things that can be completed in a shorter amount of time. After eating a big Turkey dinner you will feel more like napping than working. Thank you tryptophan!

Bonus Tip:

  1. Enjoy yourself! Yes, you have work to do…and all of the adults at the table probably have work as well (don’t forget, only schools get a break for this holiday, working folks only get Thursday off if they are lucky). Eat, stay in your pjs all day, laugh with people, run errands, get personal things done. Your brain does need downtime, and you’ll need to feel rested to tackle the end of the semester on a good note.

Have a wonderful break. Enjoy some good food, good laughs, and some downtime. Do remain mindful of your academic world as well.


Happy Thanksgiving!



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