Lauren Joffe

When college students hear the word “break,” sometimes sandy beaches are all we can picture. But fall break is usually less about fun in the sun and more about heading home for a few days -- or even just hanging out on campus.

Already feel a snore coming on? Not to worry, because we are breaking down exactly what you can do for fall break each year. ...

Fall Break for Freshmen: Tie Up Loose Ends

You’ve only been riding solo for a couple of months now, so take advantage of this free time by tying up any loose ends at home. This means reconnecting with high school friends, telling Mom and Dad about backbreaking courses, and figuring out how to balance your old life at home with your new university setup.

Says Danielle Mandel, now a senior at New York University: “Fall break during freshman year was the first time I had been home since leaving, so it definitely took some adjusting. I’d spent the last two months being independent, so going home to my mom’s rules was kind of a trial-and-error situation. Some of my friends from home were also starting to explore new interests, so it took some extra effort for us to keep up with each other’s lives and not drift apart.”

And while you probably had a handy move-in checklist for college, you’re now discovering there are some necessary items no one clued you in on. Pick up all the extras you forgot to bring to school the first time around.

Here are some common items many first-year students miss:

- Laptop cushion for cramming in bed

- Ramen, ramen, ramen

- Mattress pads for that uncomfortable twin bed

- Bottle opener

- Hand vac (those cheap dorm rugs aren’t cleaning themselves)

Fall Break for Sophomores: Be a Couch Potato

You have our blessing to veg out. That’s right, for this break (and this break only!), we give you the go-ahead to sit around with friends and do absolutely nothing productive.

“Sophomore year, a few college friends and I drove up to my house in Canada, right from campus,” recalls Nicole DeAngelis, senior at Lehigh University. “We went to the spa, hung out in the town center and went out at night in Montreal. Since it was only a four-day break, there wasn’t much time to go on a real vacation, so staying somewhere relatively local was affordable and convenient.” So whether you chill out at school with friends, journey home to get reacquainted with the sofa, or take a day trip not too far off campus, enjoy your staycation.

Fall Break for Juniors: Put Your Resume Together

That’s right -- it’s time to write, redo or polish up your resume. The summer of junior year is a key time to intern or volunteer in your chosen profession, and you won’t get hired without a well-crafted resume. Sure, next summer seems light-years away. But for juniors heading overseas for spring semester, or for those over-scheduled with classes and extracurriculars, fall break is a good time to get ’er done.

Andrea Senderoff, communications specialist and Syracuse University alumnus, worked for two years at the university’s career center and advises juniors to get varied experience now. Says Senderoff: “Really take a look at your skills. Experience on a resume doesn’t have to be an internship. It can be a class project where your leadership skills were tested, or it could be an extracurricular activity that you are passionate about. Figure out what skill sets you’ve acquired, because it is all relevant to your resume.”

Once you have a first draft, Senderoff offers these tips:

Reach out to a contact in your industry.

Give him or her a sample of your draft, and ask what you can do to improve it to the standard of resumes from those currently working.

Get feedback from someone you admire,

whether it is a family member or an older friend with a great job. Ask to sneak a peek at that person’s resume too.

Make an appointment with a career advisor ASAP.

He or she will help tailor your resume to your field’s specific expectations.

Fall Break for Seniors: Get Serious

For those not on top of their game (or sidetracked by football season), fall break serves as a window of opportunity to buck up and take care of business.

Get serious about graduation.

Go to your university’s website and make a comprehensive checklist of departmental requirements you’ve fulfilled and those you still need to complete. Just to be safe, set up a meeting with your advisor or guidance counselor immediately following break. This will allow you to properly plan for spring registration and fix any glitches.

Get serious about career goals.

Start scouting out companies in your chosen profession. Pull together a portfolio of potential employers and research, research, research. Says Eugene Secunda, New York University professor and student advisor: “Before you contact someone at a company, make sure to research who they are within the company, what they do, the company’s strengths, weaknesses, etc. You would be surprised how many young people go into informational interviews with satchels of class projects spewing off company facts. Instead, you should go in loaded with questions, ideas, information and stimulating topics that trigger their interest in you as a candidate.”

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the pressure is on. Cue the deep breathing. …