12 Things I Learned My Sophomore Year of College

Tyler York

Welcome to the wild ride we all call our sophomore year! This is that time in our college life when we find ourselves juggling with decisions, going through many ups and downs, and managing frustrations and stress. But it’s also a time for eye-opening discoveries, making and deepening new friendships, and settling into the college experience.

In this article, I want to take you on a journey through my own sophomore experiences and share the 12 lessons that I’ve learned to shape me into the “wiser” college student I am today. Get ready to unlock the secrets that can, hopefully, make your own sophomore year a little bit better.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Lesson 1: It’s okay to change your major

Let’s talk about changing your major. First, you need to know – it’s totally okay! Many students find themselves in the same situation at least once during college. What’s key is to find a major that you feel is right for you and allow your talents to shine.

Imagine this: you’re sitting in the lecture hall, feeling uninspired and disconnected from the class. That was me during my freshman year. I felt trapped in a major that didn’t make me feel, well, right. I began to doubt myself and my choices. But after consulting with trusted advisors, friends, and family, I began to see my major in a different light.

I realized that it’s up to me to make decisions that align with my passions and goals. If you see that your current major doesn’t empower you or provide the learning opportunities you crave, don’t settle for less. Think about switching majors or even schools if that’s what it takes to find the thing that you love to do even well beyond college. It’s your experience, and you deserve to be happy and fulfilled.

Lesson 2: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

During my sophomore year, I learned that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. I was drowning in exams, assignments, and projects while juggling personal errands that I thought I would go bald. At my limits, I reached out to professors for clarification on difficult concepts and asked my classmates for assistance on projects. The input and support they provided have proven to be invaluable to making my sophomore year easier to navigate. 

Additionally, you can check your college or university like I did. Most, if not all, offer resources such as tutoring centers, writing labs, and counseling services, which can help you in your academic and personal development. By overcoming the fear of asking for help, I discovered that I could overcome challenges more effectively, I feel less panicky, and now I have a supportive network of people who genuinely wanted to see me succeed.

Lesson 3: Get involved in extracurricular activities

Sophomore year showed me that college is more than just your academic classes. That there’s plenty of other things I can do. Lots of extracurricular activities I can get into. I saw this time as a chance for me to explore what I love and to find new interests. 

The extracurricular activities I decided to engage in not only enhanced my college experience, but also helped me meet people and make memories that will last a lifetime. Through these experiences, I also sometimes developed new skills that made me a stronger candidate for internships and future job opportunities. For you, you could even find a passion that inspires your career direction.

Whether it’s joining a sports team, participating in community service, or becoming a member of a cultural organization, each extracurricular activity will surely enrich your college life in unique ways. So, go join that music club if you want – this is the time to do it.

Lesson 4: Take care of your mental health

Amid the academic demands and social pressures, it’s easy to neglect our mental well-being. My sophomore year opened my eyes to the importance of self-care and prioritizing my health—physical and mental. 

As I mentioned before, balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and our personal life can become too much to manage, leading to stress and burnout. That is why I made a conscious effort to establish healthy coping mechanisms and prioritize self-care activities. I got into exercise, meditation, and journaling. These activities helped me manage my stress and maintain a positive mindset.

I also recognized the importance of seeking support when facing challenges by confiding in trusted friends and family members. But if that’s not an option for you, check if your college or university offers counseling services. If we take steps to prioritize our mental well-being, it can help us navigate the ups and downs of college life with greater strength and inner peace.

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Lesson 5: Start networking early

I’ve said this before, but here I am driving home the point. College is not all about your classes and schoolwork. In today’s interconnected world, a well established network can be just as valuable as your diploma or degree.

I learned that building connections early on can lead to valuable internships, mentorships, and career prospects. Forget the old notion of networking as just exchanging business cards or attending seminars. I began to think about networking as a way to foster genuine relationships and a supportive community. 

During my sophomore year, I attended career fairs, established an online presence especially on LinkedIn, and actively sought out the services of the Career Center of my university. I was rewarded with insights into potential career paths, which allowed me to gain valuable advice and guidance, and opened doors to internship opportunities. 

Networking also enabled me to connect with like-minded peers, forming study groups, and engaging in collaborative projects. By building a strong network, I realized that I was not alone in my journey and had a support system of individuals who shared similar goals and aspirations.

Lesson 6: Don’t be afraid to fail

We hear this often: Failure is a natural part of the learning process. But do we really internalize what it means? Well, my second year in university taught me that setbacks and mistakes are just synonyms for growth and resilience. But, like most students, I was afraid of making mistakes. I thought if I fail, I’m not good enough.

However, through the many academic and personal challenges I went through, I learned that failure does not define me but rather shapes me. I viewed each setback as a valuable lesson that helped me adapt and persevere. By embracing failure, learning from it, and understanding that success often comes after multiple attempts, I developed a growth mindset that moves me forward. 

Lesson 7: Learn to manage your time effectively

Time management became a needed skill during my sophomore year. Juggling multiple tasks was not working and it made me even more stressed. I realized that effective time management is not about cramming as many tasks as possible into a day, but prioritizing activities based on importance and deadlines.

So, I learned to create a schedule and break my tasks into manageable chunks. Then, I allocated specific time slots for studying, attending classes, engaging in extracurricular activities, and taking breaks. By being mindful of how I spent my time and avoiding the big P—procrastination—I was able to improve my productivity and maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Additionally, I discovered the importance of setting realistic expectations and allowing room for flexibility in my schedule. Being able to adapt and adjust my plans when unexpected events arise was a valuable skill that I will carry with me beyond college.

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Lesson 8: Set realistic goals for yourself

Setting goals is like creating a roadmap for success. But here’s the secret: make sure those goals are realistic and achievable. During my sophomore year, I discovered that aiming too high without considering my limitations often left me feeling disappointed and burned out.

That’s when I learned about SMART goals—ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Once I was able to understand that, I was breaking down big projects into smaller, manageable task lists. And as I checked items off that list, I felt a sense of accomplishment. And I didn’t feel as overwhelmed. 

I also realized the importance of celebrating milestones and recognizing the progress I made towards my goals. All these made me stay motivated and also built my confidence in my own abilities. 

Lesson 9: Don’t be afraid to explore new interests

Here’s the thing, college is the perfect time to explore and expand your interests. When I first thought about joining that new club that I was interested in but was well out of my normal pursuits, I hesitated long enough to exasperate myself and just give it a go. And, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. No regrets.

I explored different courses, attended workshops and events, and engaged in conversations with individuals from diverse backgrounds, which helped broaden my perspective. By embracing new interests, whether it’s joining a club, exploring a hobby, or taking up a new course, I opened the doors to countless opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

If you’re feeling stuck in your comfort zone, I say, it’s time to challenge yourself. Who knows what new things you get to learn?

Lesson 10: Learn to say no

Sophomore year taught me the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say no when necessary. Sometimes we forget and get caught up in a whirlwind of commitments and the demands of college life. I can still remember being stressed out between my classes and schoolwork, extracurriculars, and personal commitments that I found myself zoning out. I lacked sleep and skipped meals. I was literally a mess. I needed to evaluate my life, and my schedule.

I learned to understand my limits and what I can do with my time without forgetting about my health and well-being. Saying no allowed me to focus on what truly mattered and to allocate time and energy to activities that aligned with my goals and values. Learning to say no was not about shutting doors but rather about making conscious choices and cultivating a sense of balance in my already hectic college life.

Lesson 11: Take advantage of student perks

We all know this, college can be tough on your wallet. But there are also some pretty sweet benefits and deals that come with the territory. And I learned some of these through the grapevine, and of course some research. 

First up, have you heard of StudentRate? It’s a website that keeps track of all the amazing deals exclusively for students. From electronics to fashion, you can find some incredible discounts that will have your budget cheering.

As a student, you may be eligible for special pricing on computers. Companies like Apple, Dell, HP, and Lenovo offer student pricing options that can save you some serious cash. This goes for software as well, such as Adobe Creative Cloud, which offers up to 60% discount for students.

And if you join Amazon Student, you can enjoy six months of Amazon Prime benefits without spending a penny. Fantastic, right? These are just a few of the perks we can take advantage of as students.

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Lesson 12: Enjoy your college experience!

At the end of my sophomore year, I came to realize a lot of things. One of which is that college is both a wonderful time filled with many possibilities. Yet also painfully hard as I’m aware that I’m building the foundation to my future.

Amid the academic and personal challenges, it’s essential to savor the journey, make lasting memories, and nurture meaningful connections. From attending campus events and cheering on the sports teams to forming deep friendships and exploring the local community, I embraced the vibrant college experience. 

I learned to balance hard work with moments of relaxation and joy, understanding that a well-rounded college experience is not solely defined by grades and achievements. By immersing myself in the present and finding joy in the small moments, I cultivated a sense of gratitude and appreciation for this remarkable chapter of my life.

Wrapping up

Sophomore year of college brought forth a wealth of knowledge and personal growth. From the importance of seeking help to the value of self-care and exploration, each lesson has shaped me into a more resilient, well-rounded individual. As I continue to the next chapter of my college life, I carry all the lessons I learned. And I forge on, eager to keep discovering, exploring, and growing.

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