Stop forgetting your sophomore students

Don't let these students become 'the ones that got away'

Sophomore students have a bad case of "middle child syndrome." 

They're too old for the special attention their colleges give to first-year students to ease the home-to-college transition, and not yet old enough to get the focused graduation support that more senior students receive.

To give sophomores a sense of purpose and motivation, several schools have adopted programs and initiatives specifically geared toward their second-year bunch.

These programs can include:

  • Sophomore-specific housing;
  • Special classes; and
  • Social events.

Caleb Peng, the co-director of the Second Year program at Emory University, argues that requiring sophomore students to live on campus is the key to keeping them engaged. He says resident students have more opportunities to connect with one another and faculty members. At Emory, an academic advisor resides in each resident hall and is available to meet with students after hours.

At Trinity University, the Sophomore College program places a strong emphasis on mentoring sophomore students, pairing them with upperclassmen and helping them choose a major.

At Trinity's "Major Meals," sophomore students are able to explore different courses of study over dinner, where they can speak with faculty and alumni about how different majors compare in terms of job opportunities and workload.

Make sure to remind your sophomores that they don't have to double major to excel

University Business' Kate West lists an additional 16 ideas that schools might implement in order to give their "middle children" the attention they deserve—and, in turn, raise retention and graduation rates. West has collected the following ideas from Emory, Trinity, Ohio State University, and Williams College:

  1. A trivia night;
  2. A barbecue night;
  3. Love your major week;
  4. Faculty mentoring options;
  5. A sophomore masquerade ball;
  6. Field trips with faculty members;
  7. On-campus housing with live-in advisors;
  8. Meals with faculty members to discuss major options;
  9. Faculty-to-student cookie deliveries during finals week;
  10. Midnight breakfasts to help students prepare for exams;
  11. An off-campus retreat at the start of the academic year;
  12. A "Sophomore Summit" about majors and study abroad options;
  13. "Halfway to graduation" celebration at the end of sophomore year;
  14. S'mores story time, where sophomores can speak with upperclassmen;
  15. Stipend pay offered to students to conduct projects relating to sophomore-year initiatives; and
  16. Sophomore "pinning ceremony," where sophomores are officially recognized as part of the alumni community.

(West, University Business, 1/27).

Successful sophomore retention efforts have these 4 components

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