It seems like the sophomore year is one that you don’t remember. It’s not like your freshman year when everything is new and exciting. It’s not like your junior year when you start the college search process. It’s not like your senior year that is fast-paced, application-crazed, and meaningful yet fun. It’s the often-overlooked sophomore year that isn’t given nearly enough credit. This is disappointing news for our friend the sophomore year—especially because sophomore year represents 1/3 of the grades and activities you will use when it is time to apply to college. It deserves far more attention than most students give it.
Most colleges will tell you just how much sophomore year counts. Your sophomore year really can be the beginning of your high school career, especially if your freshman year was a bit lack luster. This article may not be used as an excuse to completely slack off in your freshman year, however. The grades you make in ninth grade are still on your transcript, but colleges will look at sophomore year as the real proof of what you can do—in and out of the classroom. It is, at many high schools, the first year in which Advanced Placement classes are offered, the year when many take the PSAT and the PLAN, you decide what else you take in your high school career, and establish yourself as a student, activities participant and as a leader. As intimidating as that seems, it doesn’t take a lot to prove yourself as a sophomore. If you are the person who completely slacked off during your freshman year, the sophomore year is the perfect time to bring those grades up. If you demonstrate continual improvement, this will show the college that you really do have work ethic, and you are a problem solver—you realized the problem of the less than excellent grades, and you worked out a way to not only correct the uh-oh trend, but a way to improve upon it.
Why all the talk about college you ask? As a sophomore, you don’t apply to college or even decide where you want to go. You might even have no clue if you really want to go to college or what you want to do if you did. Sophomore year is all about keeping your options open, and about being prepared to have choices when you graduate. The best thing you can do at this age, however, is decide where you don’t want to go and what you don’t want to do. For example, as a sophomore I had already decided that I was NOT going to women’s college. No offense to the single-sex institutions, but I just knew they weren’t for me. I had come to this conclusion with the help of my sister, whether she knew it or not. My sister is three years older than me, so I tagged along with her as she visited colleges all across the country, four of which were all female. By tagging along, I also decided that I didn’t want to go to an extremely tiny school in the middle of nowhere. Now, not all students have been blessed with an older sibling who applied to nine colleges and visited even more, but no fear, narrowing down your college search is actually quite easy. Believe it or not, your college counselor really does know about colleges and by sitting down with him/her for a few minutes, your counselor can probably pinpoint the type of school, location, and scholarships available for you. Another great way to find out about colleges that you may or may not want to attend is to visit your local college “fair.” This is where admissions counselors from colleges throughout the country and even internationally come together for the sole purpose of provide you with all the information you could possibly need about the college they represent. For your own well being, they will inundate you with pamphlets and booklets and even some free bumper stickers or T-shirts. This way you can see what colleges are really like by seeing actual pictures in a book as well as speaking to real live representatives of that college.
It’s a mistake to think your resume is all about school, though. What you do outside of school can count just as much as what you do in the classroom. Jobs, volunteering, and sports all count as good experiences and resume boosters. They may also be outlets for great networking experiences and scholarships. Be sure to note everything that you’ve done on your resume—it may seem small and unimportant to you, but to the admissions director or scholarship provider, it could be the difference between getting what you want or being unhappy with your choices.
Your sophomore year definitely shouldn’t be the forgotten one. You can establish your reputation as a student, but also prepare for your future in high school and beyond. It is too easy to just let the year slide by only doing what’s required. Make the most of it—but have fun doing it!