College students across the country will be enjoying some well-earned time off this week.
Thanksgiving break looks different for every student. Some will travel home to big family dinners, some will host dorm-room feasts and some will endure horrific traffic jams, flight delays and layovers. For some students, this will be the first Thanksgiving they spend away from their families.
But before you hole up by yourself in your dorm room or have a crisis about being away from home, take a deep breath. No matter the circumstances, everyone can use their time off to grow and connect with the people in their lives.
Here are seven things every college student should do over Thanksgiving break:
Host a Friendsgiving
Sharing a meal and quality time with your friends is a great way to spend your break whether you are at home or at school — it doesn’t even have to be on Thursday.
You can save money on your Friendsgiving feast by hosting a potluck and asking your friends to bring their favorite seasonal treats. Alternatively, many supermarkets offer cheap prepared Thanksgiving meals. Sprouts for instance, offers a $70 thanksgiving meal that serves up to eight people. If everyone pitches in, you and your chosen family can make Friendsgiving a fun and affordable night to remember.
Read a classic book
When you are swamped with assigned readings, it can feel impossible to find time for personal reading. Thanksgiving break is the perfect opportunity to catch up on your reading list.
If you are looking to read a classic American novel, check out Bill Gates’ all-time favorite novels: “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles.
Elon Musk says he was “raised by books” and credits his success to books like “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson.
Still don’t think you have the time to sit down and crack open a book? Be sure to check out CNBC Make It’s one-sentence summaries of some of the world’s best money-related reads.
Binge a podcast
Listening to a podcast is one of the easiest ways to gain some much-needed inspiration over your Thanksgiving break.
Review your finances
One of the most responsible things you can do over Thanksgiving break is to assess your finances and build yourself a budget.
College finance consultant Kathy Ruby tells CNBC Make It that the first step of becoming a financially independent adult is understanding how you spend your money. “The first step, of course, is for kids to start to manage the money they have on their own,” she says. “Create a budget.”
If this is your first time making a budget, create a system for you to track your expenses for the next month, says Ruby. “What can be helpful, especially for kids who have never done this is before is to try tracking their expenses for the first 30 days to see, ‘Where am I spending my money?’”
Collect your family history
Whether you are at home or at school, Thanksgiving is a great reason to learn more about your family. Give your family members a call and ask if you can record your conversation about your family history.
Having this conversation can help you better understand who you are and where you come, and having documentation will help you pass stories along to future generations.
No matter what you end up talking about, this exercise will help you feel close to your family — even if you are far away.
Many colleges will organize volunteering opportunities for students. Volunteering in your local community is a great way to give back and connect with people outside of your college bubble.
If your school does not offer any volunteering opportunities, organizations like VolunteerMatch and Idealist can help you find the perfect way to lend a helping hand this Thanksgiving.
Although they certainly face their own challenges, college students have much to be grateful for. Unfortunately, earning an education is a privilege that many Americans are unable to afford.
Every college student should use this holiday as an opportunity to thank the people in their life that make being a college student possible.