Spring Break Alternatives

Since MTV began broadcasting its seasonal “Spring Break” program in 1986, it’s gotten hard not to see spring break as 150 unbroken hours of alcohol- and pot-fueled streaking and random sex.

Hitting the sand, the suds, and maybe the sack is high on the list for many. For one week a year, Palm Beach, South Padre Island, and Cancún receive a combined 750,000 students on break. That’s about a quarter of a percent of the entire United States. When about 1 in 400 Americans—college students, mainly—migrates to the beach and does a lot of unprintable things each March, thinking of spring break in terms of drunken horniness can become a reflex.

But the truth is that for every 1 in 2.5 male and 1 in 3.33 female college students who plans to flock to a beach or other party-friendly destination during spring break, there are many others planning radically different holidays. A number of organizations, including United Way and Habitat for Humanity are offering students opportunities to use their downtime to help those who are down on their luck.

During spring break, 1 in 4.17 college males and 1 in 5.26 college females plans to volunteer or do community service. If you doubt their sincerity, consider that 1 in 4 college males and 1 in 5.88 college females reports volunteering or doing community service work last spring break—not planning to do it, that is, but having done it.

In fact, quite a few students plan to spend this spring break in Haiti, in spite of college and volunteer-group warnings that it’s not yet safe to go. The Center for International Disaster Information is urging all volunteers who do not have direct experience in relief work to wait until the country is more stable. But many students, motivated by altruism, or maybe a thirst for adventure, are determined to lend a hand.

Volunteerism, however—Haiti-directed or otherwise—is only one pursuit attracting the more responsible and studious undergrads (the ones not trying to jump from hotel balconies into shallow hotel pools). Just getting a chance to sleep at home and get a good meal appeals to many. The odds a female college student plans to spend time with family during her next spring break are 1 in 1.56 (64%); for male students, the odds are almost as high: 1 in 1.75 (57%).

A surprising percentage of college students are spending their spring break week doing what hundreds of millions of Americans do week in, week out: working. 1 in 1.85 (or 54% of) male college students, and 1 in 1.96 (51% of) female students, reports working for pay during his or her last spring break. Others hit the books: nearly 50% of both sexes spent their last spring break studying.

Other college student spring break plans cover all sorts of admirable activities.

  • Relax in nature: 1 in 4.17 (females) and 1 in 2.94 (males)
  • Run, walk, or race for a cause: 1 in 12.5 (females), 1 in 6.67 (males)
  • Tutor another student: 1 in 12.5 (females), 1 in 7.69 (males)

Finally there’s time spent teetotaling. It may come as a shock, but even among college students who choose to spend their break in the sun, 1 in 11.11 females and 1 in 15.87 males reports never being drunk during spring break.

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