Ten Strategies to Help Sophomores Thrive and Persist
Sophomore year is considered the next hazardous (after the first year) for persistence and avoiding attrition, as many student become overwhelmed with the idea of three more years of hard work, of facing an uncertain academic future and of not being the “special” new kids on the block. Please read (and encourage students to read) the “Especially for Sophomores” section of the student advising website to put the suggestions below into perspective.
1. CONNECT. CONNECT. CONNECT. To their future, to academics and instructors, to study groups and tutors, to activities, to potential careers, to alumni, to upper level students in their “majors”, to you as advisor, to resources such as the ACP office, Counseling and Wellness Center and the “Especially for Sophomores” advising website, as well as to all the resources in the pages above.
2. Try a developmental approach. Move from class selection toward helping students appreciate the grand scheme, toward providing support and toward giving encouragement to take on greater (and appropriate) challenges.
3. Bolster academic skills. Help advisees develop the academic skills they need to survive. Don’t assume they know, but question carefully to see what they need, and connect them to people and resources to help. Some potential interventions are HERE.
4. Teach “system” skills. Teach then to ‘navigate the system” and seek solutions, rather than become a victim of their education.
5. Expose procrastination/motivation issues. Assist students in recognizing and overcoming motivation problems and any procrastination issues that come along. Be alert for fears that might underlie these difficulties. Refer them as needed for additional help.
6. Teach problem-solving. Assist students in problem diagnosis and acknowledgment, in developing problem-solving techniques, and in making decisions. Even though this is much more difficult than providing solutions for them, these are skills they need to acquire and practice.
7. Connect to career opportunities. Probe where advises are in terms of career considerations. Asking open-ended questions helps students see the sequence of their future in smaller, and less overwhelming chunks: “What would you like to get out of the summer?” “Have you been to the ACP office?” “Have you tried any informational interviews to look at match between your interests, values and careers?”
8. Have the “declare a major” conversation. Help them connect career goals to major selection, a primary task of the second year. Help them create a reasonable “Plan B” strategy (as needed) to reduce performance anxiety, especially in pre-health areas. Connect them with a new advisor if necessary.
9. Consider DR and additional study timing issues. Help students to see beyond the lure of “finishing off DRs” to how each DR slot can be a “broadening” or a “connecting” experience. The DRs can make a big difference. Overseas study, internships, and unique opportunities take careful planning: many sophomores don’t even know their options.
10. A flexible four-year plan. Ask your advisee to develop a flexible four-year plan (see website) if they have not already done so. A skeleton plan with terms and times for known classes can be an illuminating anchor. Assist with and review their efforts. Learning how to construct a plan, and modify it, is a valuable life skill and a strong indicator of persistence at college. When students feel connected to and envision their own plan, they envision graduation.
These strategies will go a long way to help sophomores fight the drift and slump so characteristic of this major year of growth.