What should I seek to accomplish in my sophomore year?
No one experiences the same sophomore year, so you could be anywhere on the scale relative to the issues below. Some may be well behind you, others may be looming. Not to worry. There’s help all around you, but you must take action as needed! The key word for this year is “Clarifying”!
1. Age gracefully. Now that the new First Years are getting all the attention, you aren’t the new kid on the block anymore and that can feel pretty lonely. It’s worse if you feel stuck between your former life where things were clearly defined, and a future self that’s not quite in focus.
Those gawky teenage years ring a bell? The sophomore year can be the educational equivalent! This is the perfect time to learn more about yourself, what makes you tick, what motivates you and what are your strengths and talents.
2. Embrace uncertainty. (or at least get more comfortable with it) It’s easy to feel uncertain, and then feel guilty and uncertain about being uncertain. Go figure! This is normal as you continue your journey toward independence. Things are in flux, sometimes in several areas at once. You might be caught between conflicting directions and desires! It isn’t fair, but it’s often true.
Decisions (with their accompanying uncertainty) have to be made, and sometimes remade, as you continue to change and grow. Confusion can be a natural consequence, but making decisions does get easier with practice, since you gradually collect a toolbox of problem-solving strategies. If decisions have you in a bind, try making a list of pros and cons, finding out what others have done (and why they made those choices) and/or keeping a journal where you reflect on the triumphs and fears natural to this stage.
Of course, that “perfect place” you have in mind is actually a moving target. Even when you reach it, like Alice in Wonderland, you still have to devote a lot of energy to keeping up. If the issues of college really get to you, be sure to visit the Counseling and Wellness Center for help!
3. Work to clarify personal and professional goals.
- What kind of person am I and what kind of person do I want to become?
- Do my high school plans still apply?
- What career would satisfy me and utilize my strengths and talents?
- How can I find a life with purpose?
GRRR! Just when you had life figured out, new opportunities arise and throw everything into chaos. For some students, these kinds of questions become very important during the sophomore year.
Remember not to let these questions paralyze you. Part of this is a work in progress that will continue beyond your college years. Revisiting “Goal setting” (in Success Manual: Organization) may help you with the process, and you can utilize campus resources, such as advisors, professors and the Academic and Career Planning (ACP) staff. Keep an eye out for programs run by the Student Life Office and the Counseling and Wellness Center (which can do residence hall presentations as well!).
4. Select a field of study (and declare a major) that will assist in meeting career goals. Continue to scope out majors and their relationship to the careers that interest you. (See “Select a field of study.”) Begin to determine which educational paths are required, which are optional and what kind of “wriggle room” you have. Since a great deal of specific training is “on the job” it may not matter exactly what your major is called; it’s often the combination of things you’ve completed that matters most. A quick check of any job-posting site will reveal this overlap. And different schools have different names for majors. It’s true that you have to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year, if you can’t do it sooner. Being prepared for this decision will really help!
Alert! When you select a major, you may not know immediately if you’ve made the right choice. No buzzer will sound, and no cheerful announcer will summarize what you’ve won. It’s the quiet nature of the confirmatory signals—the almost undetected indications that you are on the right path—that are your reward.
And it is precisely the lack of immediate and obvious feedback that makes the decisions around the field of study/major/career axis so intimidating. Be sure to use all your resources: advisor, instructors, Academic and Career Planning staff and others.
5. Engage/re-engage academically to move seamlessly into advanced classes. Some sophomores find that they check in to classes, only to feel as if they are checking out. Classes seem like the same-old, same-old, tons of work will be required, and the level and pace may even accelerate over last year. Remember you probably felt this way in high school too, but the compression of college makes all your experiences more intense. The second year is a good time to make sure you are:
- Utilizing study groups to the max so you can remain energized
- Taking at least one class you really want to take (gasp!) each term
- Doing informational interviews/job shadowing for the “That’s so cool!” feeling
- Reviewing why you came to college in the first place and how you have grown
- Recommitting to a dream (career/major direction) to boost your motivation
- Seeking contact with professors, staff or academic mentors (they all care!)
- Reviewing the Success Manual if you suddenly feel less sure you have mastered an academic skill
- Checking out the “Connect/Reconnect” page on this site
6. Remain healthy and balanced. Sophomores often want to “burn the candle at both ends” and can become tired and cranky from all the demands placed on them. You’ll want to make sure you eat healthfully, exercise regularly (for general health, stress reduction and to release those feel-good endorphins) and get enough sleep (use ear plugs!).
Now is the time to examine your habits (good and bad). Assess what adjustments may be necessary to attain/maintain balance between work and play. Resist the urge to fall back on old patterns that aren’t optimal for moving through this challenging year. Seek out friends and activities that are forward-looking to help you grow, not stagnate. The Counseling and Wellness Center has information and programming to support your efforts.
It’s the second inning stretch! Remember your sophomore year may seem to stretch out ahead of you, but it will go quickly! Dive in, and get swimming. This too shall pass, and sooner than you think!