After a long summer vacation filled with the anticipation of school starting up again, it's finally the first day of your sophomore year. You excitedly greet the close friends you made throughout the past two semesters and eagerly begin sharing stories from your summers apart. Maybe you're moving into the chapter house for the first time, or you're finally out of the residence halls and setting up your very first apartment with one of your sisters. Last year was a great year, but you're not a freshman any more--this year is going to be even better!
Recruitment comes and goes and it's finally Bid Day. You and your sisters welcome the newest members of the chapter and celebrate this exhilarating time. You are elated to have such a great group of new members, but something feels unsettled. You can't quite pinpoint what has changed, but something is definitely different. Then it hits you: you are no longer a new member. The glitz and glamor of being one of the newest members of the chapter has faded and before you know it, you begin to feel lost in the shuffle.
Throughout the semester, you realize that the classes you're enrolled in are a bit more challenging than your English 101 cake walk from last semester. Your academic advisor begins pressuring you to declare a major since you've completed all of your general education requirements, but you have no idea yet what you want to study. Your social life has been great, but you realize that it's been almost a month and half since you've seen your best friend from your freshman year who chose not to join a sorority on campus. She stopped calling to set up a lunch date about three weeks ago.
Last semester, when the seniors graduated, they told you to make every second count and to get involved in Alpha Gamma Delta in every way that you can. So you attend every sisterhood event, every social and every intramural game and pretty soon your agenda is bursting full of Alpha Gam activities. You begin to wonder what officer position you want to pursue and where you think you fit as a leader in the chapter—maybe VPMD, Social Coordinator or maybe even President one day! You don't know what role you'll pursue, but elections are soon approaching and it's all anyone can talk about.
As you take on more responsibility, you begin to see your friends less, school work becomes even more overwhelming and there comes a point where you find yourself asking, "How did I get here?" You feel overwhelmed with everything on your plate, but at the same time, you love everything you're involved in and committed to. You're involved and busy, but still find yourself feeling lost.
"Lost, lonely, stressed, pressured, unsupported, frequently indecisive and invisible, many sophomores fall off the radar of campus educators at a time when they may most be seeking purpose, meaning, direction, intellectual challenge and intellectual capacity building," says Susan R. Komives, leading expert in the field of student development. Whether or not you currently identify with this story or can remember back to feeling this way during your sophomore year, the second-year experience has been proven to present unique challenges to college students. Balancing more rigorous course work, additional involvement and activities, a social life and even work or internships can be stressful, especially as the newness of college and even the newness of Alpha Gamma Delta can start to wear off.
From your first day as a sophomore, your roles and responsibilities as a college student begin to shift. At this point in college, many students experience somewhat of an identity crisis, full of questions about what the future holds. Life balance is a struggle to maintain and students are overwhelmed with the onset of real life decisions approaching. Pressure to excel academically increases and relationships continue to either fade or develop more deeply, requiring more time and energy. Transitioning is often a theme of the sophomore year, and because sophomores are no longer the brand new freshman or the upperclassmen applying for internships and preparing for graduation, their transitions can sometimes happen without the support they need to navigate it successfully and confidently.
None of this means your sophomore year is going to be terrible! As many of your sisters can surely testify, the struggles you may face as sophomores will be worth the challenges as you look back. Sophomores have an amazing opportunity during that second year of college to learn, grow and invent the women, students, sisters and friends they want to be during and after college. They key is not to sit in your room and simply survive your sophomore year, but instead to navigate all these transitions in a healthy way that sets you up for success. Consider these tips:
- While you may feel pressure to declare your major as soon as possible, avoid making hasty decisions about which program you choose to pursue. Consider taking a trip to the career center to talk about your strengths and interests. Interview older students from different majors to catch a glimpse at what life as a Communication major or Biology major has to offer.
- If over-commitment to leadership positions is your predicament, take a back seat and enjoy simply being a member while others lead. While it is important to develop your leadership skills, you don't have to be superwoman. It's okay to say "no" sometimes. (Actually, according to the University Learning Outcomes Assessment, or UniLOA, the highest performing students only hold 2 leadership positions.)
- If you feel yourself over-involved within your own chapter or disconnected from the community, try joining a new organization outside of Alpha Gam for the opportunity to meet some new people and make new friends. (UniLOA reports also confirm that high performing students participate in 3 campus organizations.)
- Remember to do something that is just for you every once in a while. Whether it is going on a run or catching up with an old friend from home, don't forget the importance of life balance. Take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. That friend from your freshman hall that you haven't seen in over a month? Call her to set up a coffee date. It is healthy to maintain a variety of friendships, including positive relationships outside of the chapter.
It may surprise you to know that you are the inspiration for both the younger and older members of the chapter. Of course, sophomores are typically the sister-mothers for new members and, being those closest in age, are quick to bond with new sisters. It is easy to get excited about these new members and the impact you can have on their experience. On the flip side, the juniors and seniors have been around for quite some time and have seen much of what there is to see about life in a sorority but they too trust your perspective and are open to how you'd like to shape the chapter over the next few years.
Juggling writing papers, taking exams, co-curricular activities and managing to find time to catch up with friends is a lot to take on for anyone, but especially for a sophomore in the middle of a year of transition. Amidst the chaos, though, remember to breathe. Remember the skills you learned during your Alpha Experience about the art of finding life balance. Remember that you are an inspiration to others and spend time with those who inspire you. Above all else, remember that Alpha Gamma Delta is here for you! Wrap yourself up in the sisterhood who loves you and brings out your best.