Two female students walking

What to Expect Sophomore Year

Written by Caroline Welton

Freshman year, I stumbled around excitedly, sitting nervously quiet in most of my classes, making far too great a deal over where in the dining hall I should sit, arriving a quarter-hour early to nearly everything. This semester I came back to campus to find it a more comfortable place. I knew how to fall into a rhythm of life, where I was accustomed to sit in the dining hall, how to navigate the hallways and roads and websites. It’s been a lot harder. I’m still not sure what I want to do with myself, but I’m enjoying the process of discovery as I delve deeper into classes for my majors and figure out what brings me joy. These are some of the things I found different and exciting about my sophomore year of college.

Approaching your Major

Hillsdale differs from many other colleges in that it not only allows students to enter without declaring at least a proposed major, but even encourages them to explore many areas of study. The classical liberal arts curriculum offered here provides a chance to build a broad base of knowledge and understand at least tangentially the big picture of learning before delving into a specialty.

Regardless, learning about everything is not feasible indefinitely, and students still must choose a concentration in which to become excellent. Many students make this decision during sophomore year, often formally declaring their major by the end of the year, and it is so exciting to see pictures on Instagram of everyone in their dressy outfits in front of Central Hall, clutching the major declaration card that symbolizes their passion and talents.

And it is alright if you are not ready to declare a major sophomore year, too. Even if this is not the right step for you yet, you may be reflecting on which classes you enjoy the most and why.

Sophomore year provides a good time to find a specialization because you have taken enough classes to have a general idea of what you are most drawn to, and are already pondering which of these will be best for you. You have had time to take perhaps a prerequisite class for your intended major and can begin diving deeper into the complexities of whatever you have chosen.

Deepening Friendships

During freshman year, a plethora of mixers, informational lectures, and dorm bonding events encourage you to meet new people from all reaches of campus. In Dr. Arnn’s talk to my class during orientation, he emphasized the importance of community for learning, and clearly you cannot connect over great ideas with someone if you have not yet met them, so these events hold great import for the opening weeks of freshman year. The girl you met at Hayden Park while you both were waiting in the hamburger line may turn out to be the person with whom you discuss the nature of kingship (as presented in Western Heritage), or puzzle through the complexities of organic molecules (oh, the joy of organic chemistry!).

As sophomore year rolls around, however, groups have been more or less formed, and there is less emphasis on meeting new people. This is not by any means to say that groups are exclusive; to the contrary, tables of friends eating dinner are often more than willing to include new people, be they freshmen or seniors.

Rather, the groups that have been formed display a longevity in friendship developing. This looks different for everyone, but sophomore year does present an opportunity to deepen your interactions with people you already know, since you have a whole year of shared experiences behind you. It can also be comforting to know that you have friends to hang out with even when you do not want to go out and meet new people; whereas during freshman year, you had to meet new faces every time you wished to find a table in the dining hall (at least for the first week or so).

Strengthening On-Campus Involvement

If you went to The Source during freshman orientation, you will know just how many campus organizations and clubs there are in which to get involved. From sororities and fraternities, to honoraries for everything you could imagine, to clubs for discussion or arts, service, or sports, there is likely to be something that catches your eye.

It is all too easy to become over-involved or under-involved in these many campus activities, among the many other things to consider freshman year. I was under-involved and wish I had expended the effort to become involved in more clubs. But even if you were wiser than me and signed your name to more email lists, many of these commitments do not begin to come to their full fruition until sophomore year.
Whether you rushed second semester, attended every meeting of your favorite club, or volunteered faithfully with one of the many GOAL programs, opportunities to take on more leadership or responsibility in your on-campus involvements may come sophomore year. Perhaps you will be able to be a resident assistant in your dorm. Or you may hold a formal leadership position such as secretary of a club or honorary.

Make no mistake, you do not have to have a title to benefit from getting more involved in on-campus activities. More time and experience put toward a commitment is a worthy and good thing, and sophomore year naturally lends itself to this.

For further reading:

A Friday in the Life of a Sophomore

First Semester Reflections

Caroline Welton, ’22, plans to study politics and Latin, and thinks one can always choose to have a good day. This is primarily done by laughing at oneself a lot, but is of course aided by pleasantries such as rainstorms, Beethoven, Russian literature, and long conversations with friends.

Published in December 2020