Sophomore Year of College: Making the Most of It

by John Montesi

Sophomore year of college is a critical time for students. The excitement and extensive support programs experienced during freshman year may now feel familiar, but students are not yet considered upperclassmen. Exposure to varied subject matter can be refreshing but also introduce doubt and lead to changes in major programs and uncertainty in career trajectory. All of this reflection is beneficial to the liberal arts-minded student. However, it can also lead to the so-called “sophomore slump.”

To make the most of sophomore year, it’s important to understand the unique challenges and opportunities that it will likely bring. Here’s what you need to know in order to excel during your second year on campus.

The Challenges of Sophomore Year

As sophomores, students are often met with a somewhat abrupt transition in care. “While there is much focus and attention given to new students—usually freshmen—sophomore year represents an often-drastic transition and pressure to ‘figure it out,’” explains Nicky Slavich, assistant director of the Office of Orientation and Transitions at Azusa Pacific University. “Sometimes termed the ‘sophomore slump,’ students are met with the challenge of changing majors, solidifying friendships, seeking meaningful internships or jobs, and finding a sense of belonging.”

With the challenges come plenty of perks! As a sophomore, you’re already familiar with your school’s campus, which means you won’t be scrambling to find your classrooms. And as you make your way around, you’ll be greeted by friendly, familiar faces as well as your favorite professors. It’s a time to focus on (and pursue) your interests, without the distractions that come with being in a new, unfamiliar environment.

Sophomore year is a transitory period that involves a few obstacles, some of which are intangible and not always well served by school-sanctioned programming. To make the most of the perks of being a sophomore, it’s important to take advantage of all resources available to you.

Critical Timing for Academic Trajectory

According to national data, sophomore year is the most likely point that students will either leave or transfer from their current university. Oftentimes, the second year is the focal point for deciding if the current institution makes sense for the long term.

During this year, students will typically either solidify their affinity with the university through academics, friendships, and opportunities or choose to disengage due to stress, identity confusion, major indecision, or academic struggles. “If students persist through their sophomore year, they are far more likely to retain until graduation and be satisfied with their university experience,” Slavich notes.

Programming for Success at APU

Azusa Pacific University recognizes the importance of sophomore year as a transition from the excitement of the first year of college and a springboard for the next few years of a student’s academic career. Accordingly, the school has strategies to help facilitate the change. For instance, APUTWO is a program specifically designed to ease students from the holistic support provided freshman year to the independence required—and expected—during subsequent college years.

“APUTWO desires to foster a culture of success for second-year students by cultivating an environment that helps the student realize his or her own potential in every sphere of life,” Slavich explains. “Essentially, we want sophomore students to thrive in the classroom, at home, in their dorms, at work, on campus, off campus, and in all areas of life.”

Designed to Thrive

The APUTWO program is mindfully designed to help students plan their own path through college, which involves making more decisions about their classes, extracurricular activities, and involvement.

“Our team does this through meaningful events, focus groups, mentorship from faculty, assessments, sophomore-specific grants, and more,” Slavich says. “Each of those pieces represents a way to connect with sophomores in different ways and help students continue to foster a genuine sense of belonging.”

All of these offerings help students thrive on campus (and within the larger community) rather than simply pass classes and graduate. APUTWO seeks to address all of the typical challenges associated with the sophomore year of college and enable positive outcomes in students’ lives.

Are you interested in learning more about APUTWO? Contact the Office of Orientation and Transitions and ask about the next available sign-ups.

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