The second year of college is the time when many students feel disillusioned. This is the year that parents, advisors, and even fellow students start asking that one dreaded question, “Have you decided on a major yet?”
Sophomore year becomes “crunch time” year when expectations are higher, decision-making becomes center stage, and focus towards a career path becomes priority. This is also the year when students are at highest risk of dropping out.
Make no mistake about it, sophomore year is a very significant transition year for college students. Why? Along with the pressure to make decisions…
- Students are still taking core course requirements and have yet to fully engage in a subject of interest.
- Students with chosen majors are just beginning to take introductory major courses (topics are still broad based).
- Students in “pre-professional” majors (pre-med, pre-nursing, pre-law, etc.) are about to learn their fate; did I make the grades to continue in this major?
Because students have yet to fully immerse themselves in the more interesting, intensive components of a major or area of interest, it is imperative that they utilize support systems to guide them and keep them encouraged and motivated in their second year. These strategies especially go for students who don’t make the cut for their “pre-professional” major choice. These students have suddenly been thrown back into undecided status, the major they have dreamed of studying is no longer an option and they can easily become discouraged and feel defeated.
The good news is that these experiences are common during sophomore year, so students who experience discouragement, defeat or frustration are definitely not alone. And, by utilizing the following six strategies, students can easily make their sophomore year a very positive experience that will build a community and begin to empower them.
1. Continue monthly meetings with your career coach.
In my earlier post titled “6 Steps to Kick start your Career Freshman Year,” I discuss the importance of establishing monthly meetings with a career coach. So, for sophomore year, your meetings will focus more intensively on identifying interests, skill sets, and strategies to learn more about jobs and companies that seek these interests and skills.
2. Set up Informational Interviews.
Identify job descriptions of interest and, with the assistance of your career coach, begin scheduling informational interviews with professionals in these jobs. Remember, most job postings do not require a specific major. Instead, they require “going to work skills” that students will develop from out of classroom experiences such as clubs, activities, research projects, internships, and leadership roles.
3. Narrow down your choices for student organizations.
Begin to focus stronger participation and engagement in one to two organizations. Find an activity that you really, truly love and focus your time here. Once you have established a strong community of support in an activity that you love, participate and become a leader within this community.
4. Work closely with your academic advisor.
Your advisor can assist you in choosing strong elective courses that will help you learn more about additional areas of interest. Considering a minor in an area such as business, technology, or writing will compliment any major.
5. Narrow down choices for majors.
Work with your career coach to research future opportunities that will best compliment these majors. Once you identify some opportunities of interest, you can begin to narrow down and feel more confident about choosing a major that truly works for you.
6. Find a Professional Mentor.
Work with your career coach to identify a professional mentor. A mentor can help guide you, support you, and offer professional development advice and assistance as you move through your sophomore year. Establish monthly meetings with your mentor to build the relationship and learn more about the expectations of the professional world.
The most significant thing you can do during sophomore year is to build a strong community of support and stay engaged in your professional development. These six strategies will keep you doing both and will launch you into a more empowered year of decision-making and professional progress.
What thoughts do you have to help students kick start their career during sophomore year? And, remember to read through my “6 Steps to Kick Start your Career during Freshman Year.”
About the author
Elizabeth Dexter-Wilson is the Coordinator of Career & Professional Development at Spring Hill College where she helps students transition from student to professional. She is also in the process of starting her own consulting business where she works with businesses and individuals on professional etiquette, branding, and image consulting. Are you a new graduate who needs help with these strategies? Check out her CareerHMO Coaching page.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CareerHMO coach. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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