Dec 07

Maximizing Winter Break: A Guide for Students

by The TA Team


As winter break approaches, students often look forward to a well-deserved respite from the rigors of academic life. However, this period of downtime presents a pivotal moment for students to gain a competitive edge in their academic journey and college admissions process.

Winter break offers a valuable chunk of time that can be strategically used for academic advancement and personal growth. It’s an ideal period for students to focus on areas that are often sidelined during the busy school year, such as standardized test preparation, college research, and exploration of personal interests. This time can be a game-changer in enhancing a student’s profile, setting the stage for future success.

Here we’ll delve into the PREP strategy – Prepare, Research, Explore, and Play – a comprehensive approach to making the most of your winter break. This strategy is designed to help students balance academic preparation with personal development, ensuring they return to school not only refreshed but also a step ahead in their college readiness journey. Let’s explore how you can transform your winter break into a springboard for academic and personal success.

Maximizing Winter Break: A Guide for Students

Prepare: Academic Excellence

Standardized Test Preparation: Winter break is an opportune time to focus on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT®. For those aiming for the February ACT or March SAT®, this is the time to intensify your preparation. Suggestions include:

  • Undertaking at least one mock test per week.
  • Seeking feedback to understand and rectify mistakes.
  • Utilizing resources for effective test preparation.

Academic Improvement: Beyond test prep, use this time to enhance your academic standing. This involves:

  • Reviewing your semester report cards to identify weak areas.
  • Creating a plan to improve in subjects where you’re lagging.
  • Engaging with teachers for feedback and guidance, especially if you’re a junior. This not only helps in improving grades but also demonstrates your commitment, potentially influencing future recommendation letters.

Research: Future Planning

Exploring Opportunities: Winter break is a key period for researching future academic and extracurricular opportunities. 

This includes:

  • Investigating summer programs and competitions, many of which have deadlines early in the year.
  • Researching colleges and universities to understand what they offer and how they align with your interests and goals.
  • Utilizing various resources like college websites, virtual tours, info sessions, and reaching out to student ambassadors for a deeper understanding of potential colleges.

Explore: Self-Discovery

Finding Your Interests: Exploration is crucial for students who are uncertain about their future paths. This phase is about hands-on experiences and trying new things. 

Ways to explore include:

  • Engaging in mini-internships through platforms like The Forage, which offer exposure to different industries and roles.
  • Trying out online courses in areas of potential interest.
  • Participating in community service or helping in family businesses to gain practical skills and insights.
  • Watching documentaries, TED Talks, or other informative content related to fields you’re considering.
3 Top Tips to Maximize Your Summer Break

Play: The Value of Unstructured Time

Importance of Downtime: Balancing structured academic and exploration activities with unstructured play is essential for mental health and creative thinking. Play can take many forms and should be a part of your winter break plan. 

This includes:

  • Engaging in sports, video games, hobbies, or any activity that brings joy and relaxation.
  • Allowing your brain to reset from intense periods of study and exploration.
  • Recognizing that play can lead to creative insights and aha moments, often helping in making important decisions about your future.


The PREP strategy provides a comprehensive approach to utilizing winter break effectively. It balances the need for academic preparation with the exploration of interests and the importance of relaxation and play. This approach not only prepares you for immediate academic challenges but also helps in long-term planning for college and career paths. Remember, the key to success is not just hard work but also smart planning and allowing time for personal growth and enjoyment.

If you have any questions about how your individual student can best use their time over break, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of Tokyo Academics’ expert advisors for a free consultation.

SAT® is a trademark owned by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse Tokyo Academics.

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