The Sophomore Year
Congratulations on successfully completing your freshman year, one of the most difficult adjustment processes that you can encounter in your academic journey. Now that you’ve gotten a good start, what’s next? The following guidelines are intended to help you prepare for a productive sophomore year.
The sophomore year is also a time of transition that will form the bridge to upper division coursework. You’ll need to spend some time exploring the many educational and career paths available to you as you move closer to upper class status. Here are some important elements for you to keep in mind as you plan your curriculum, seek advice and learn about the possibilities that lie ahead.
Make sure you are making normal and satisfactory progress toward the degree. Your academic advisor can give you a sense of whether or not you’re meeting requirements in a logical and timely fashion, help evaluate your performance within your stated goals and make suggestions for improvement.
- Are you satisfied with your performance?
- Are you working to the best of your abilities?
- Are there subject areas that need more attention and work?
- Do you need help with improving your results?
- Are you keeping track of graduation requirements and checking in with your advisor each semester to confirm that you are meeting them?
This is an important time to continue to understand the importance of discipline, reinforce your study habits and build a strong academic record. Take full advantage of tutoring services and peer advising. Your goal is to clearly establish a pattern of behaviors that will lead to progress and success.
General Education Requirements
All accredited universities have a program of general education requirements. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that students graduate with a breadth of knowledge and understanding of the major disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. This broad-based knowledge is a fundamental assumption of a bachelor’s degree.
The sophomore year is the optimal time to complete your general education requirements. Accomplishing this goal will prevent having to enroll in lower division classes in your junior and senior year. By completing these requirements in a timely fashion, you will able to focus on your major as well as coursework that supports your major. It also frees up time for you to enroll in elective classes for your enjoyment. Putting off lower division requirements until the last minute may seriously interfere with your motivation to perform at your best.
Pursue Your Academic Interests
Think carefully about your major and broaden your exploration. Look at all the course offerings in the departments that interest you, paying close attention to requirements and pre-requisites for the major. Take introductory courses in those subjects that appeal to you and those you think you would like to pursue in a more serious way.
Take part in departmental presentations or workshops that give an overview about the major. Learn all you can about the breadth of the major and subfields within the major. For example, under the general discipline of psychology, there is social psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, clinical psychology, educational psychology, experimental psychology, etc. Understand the differences, review the curriculum requirements for each and think about your choices. Ask a career advisor about career opportunities that exist for students who graduate with a degree in a particular major. Discuss these questions with professors and working professionals and seek practical advice. Make a commitment to learn all you can using all the resources available to you.
Attend campus lectures and seminars in areas that interest you. The more you learn about these topics, the better. Become acquainted with the faculty who are presenting these lectures. Check the online catalog to see what courses they teach and learn about their research interests.
When you do decide on a major, declare it. This often means filling out a form and perhaps obtaining a signature and submitting it to the Registrar’s Office. Being a declared major will likely give you priority for enrollment in some classes required for the major. Also be aware of the process necessary to change your major if you decide that your choice isn’t working out for academic or personal reasons. Always discuss these issues with your academic advisor to be sure you are covering all your bases.
Pursue Career Possibilities
Focus on taking the steps necessary to explore your career options. This is the year that will be formative in helping you define your direction. Keep your eyes and ears open and take it all in. What sorts of careers interest you? How much do you know about the careers that appeal to you? How are they similar? How are they different? Do you know anyone who works in the field? Learn the difference between corporate and non-profit careers, opportunities for working abroad and professional training such as law and the health professions.
Use the resources of the Career Services Office. Seek out the informed professionals on your campus and learn about how you can best begin the process of planning and preparing for a career that meets your needs. Is there a career library you can use? Are there career or campus recruiting events produced by employers? Are there career exploration tools available?
Be sure to research different industries, potential employers, salary and compensation packages, benefits, potential advancement and lifestyle to get a holistic and realistic sense of each career path. Take into consideration goals for your personal as well as your professional life. Be honest about what appeals to you and what is required to be successful in your chosen field.
How much educational preparation is required for your career interest? Who can best give you the academic advice you will need to work on being prepared?
Learn about Internships
There is a lot of value in pursuing internship or research opportunities. A short or long term placement with seasoned professionals doing work that will help you get a real world sense of a particular work environment is an important way to test and verify your goals. If you perform well in an internship, it could possibly lead to future contacts.
Find the appropriate office on campus and look at what is available to you in the way of experiential learning. Many internships are unpaid, while others require a certain time commitment. Ask questions and discuss your decision with an advisor to ensure that this is the right path for you.
Some firms actively recruit summer interns and there are other resources such as INROADS to assist you in your search. If you decide to pursue an internship or research placement, learn about deadlines and get reliable advice about how to write a resume and cover letter. The summer between your sophomore and junior year is an ideal time to undertake this kind of opportunity.
Studying in another country where you will be immersed in the language and culture is a great way to learn about the world and yourself. There are some great opportunities available to students in good standing who seek to travel and learn in a new environment at a university abroad.
If you’re interested in study abroad, now is the time to seek advice about all your options and prepare for applications and deadlines. Do you have the qualifications for study abroad? Do you meet the grade point average and language requirements? Do you have someone on the faculty who can write a letter of recommendation for you? Does your family support your interest in living in another country for an academic semester or year?
Seek out the appropriate office to learn everything you need to make a decision, select the right country, pursue course and language requirements if applicable and meet deadlines for application materials and interviews.
The main theme at this point in your academic year is to take all the necessary steps to confirm your progress toward the degree, learn about your interests and pursue them aggressively. Your junior year will be dedicated to building upon on the preparation you have built during your freshman and sophomore years. Make the most of your journey.