Keep Your Brain Busy During Winter Break

As tempting as it may be to let your brain veg over the UC Davis winter break, it’s in your best interest not to pickle too much of your hippocampus over Christmas. You’ll need it come January. Whether you’re hanging in your mom and dad’s house or your Tandem apartment, has lots of ways to keep busy and set yourself up for success for next term.

12 Ways to Stay Productive Over Winter Break

Return and/or Sell Fall Semester Textbooks

Before you do anything else this winter break, be sure to return any rented textbooks as soon as possible, as late fees can put a dampener on an otherwise cost-effective way of acquiring course materials. Most of the major rental firms, like Chegg and BookRenter, provide complimentary, printable shipping labels for return, so there’s usually no need to spend your own money on postage.

As for any unwanted tomes lying around in your possession, take to the campus bookstore for instant cash back or in-store credit, or hold out for a higher return on the secondhand market by setting the price low enough to undersell the bookstore, but high enough to walk away with a sizable chunk of Christmas cash.

If your college has an active Reddit page or textbook exchange Facebook group, advertise the percentage or dollar amount saved by purchasing directly from you as opposed to the price-gouging bookstore. When you cut out the middleman, everyone wins.

Rent and/or Buy Spring Semester Textbooks

Some campus bookstores guarantee in-stock availability for spring semester textbooks, but only if you preorder by a cutoff date. That deadline is sure to be looming shortly, so turn to your required materials list as soon as professors release them in order to determine which books you plan on purchasing and which books you’d rather rent.

For the latter, it’s also wise to order ahead of time to not only beat the back-to-school rush and compensate for laggy snail mail delivery, but also to snag the best deal. Some textbook rental companies fluctuate their prices in accordance with the market, lowering them during lulls in demand (AKA, Christmastime) before raising them once demand surges (AKA, three days before class).

Thoughtfully Gift

What fun is going down the Christmas wish lists of your friends and family members, mindlessly checking off line-item by line-item as you purchase preselected merchandise already chosen in advance by the giftee? You’re a human, not a pre-programmed automaton, so gift like one.

Reflect on the personalities, passions, and quirks of your loved ones to hone in on a gift tailor-made for them. Head on over to Amazon’s Gift Central or Etsy’s Gift Ideas page for a starting point. Trust me: the thoughtful gift always makes for a more authentic and surprising Christmas morning than the thoughtless gift.

Gift for a Family in Need

For many of us growing up, giftwrapped presents glimmering beneath the Christmas tree came to be an inevitability, something taken for granted. Amid the festive traditions and holiday cheer of this heavily-commercialized season, it’s all too easy to forget about the millions of households facing an uphill battle to provide their children with something to remember the holidays by. You can lend a giving hand by reaching out to one of the many charitable drives of the Christmas season, from the Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys For Totsdrive.

Consider giving the gift of giving by donating livestock in someone’s name to underprivileged families in developing nations through Heifer International. Not only is this donation a gateway to sustainable agriculture for the impoverished; it’s also a safe bet in the realm of gift-giving: according to Heifer, 79% of Americans would prefer to have a charitable gift donated in their name. Finally, if you have a little brother or sister, address their Santa Claus letter to Macy’s Believe campaign, which donates $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for every letter received.


If you’d rather lend your time rather than money to a worthy cause, the frequently understaffed food pantries and homeless shelters of your neighborhood would be eager to enlist your generosity. So would United Way, theDepartment of Veterans Affairs, or Meals on Wheels, which organizes volunteer drivers to deliver complimentary meals to the doorsteps of elderly shut-ins.

Alternatively, head on over to VolunteerMatch to carve your own unique volunteer niche.

Read a Book of Your Choosing

Between the dry discourse of peer-reviewed journals and the unimaginative prose of textbooks, reading tends to garner a poor reputation among the college crowd. But it doesn’t have to be a chore.

Browse your local library or bookstore in pursuit of anything — be it historical fiction or guilty-pleasure romantic novel — that catches your attention and holds it hostage to the very last page. It doesn’t have to be the hottest bestseller or the most revered classic; in fact, it’s probably better if it’s not, since you are your own best librarian – not the New York Times and not your English professor.

For more great suggestions, please click on the link above.