This is the second of two posts about working with your sophomore student. Be sure to see our previous post with the first three conversations with your college sophomore.
As parents, we worry about our high school senior’s transition to college. We know that there is work to be done during the summer before that freshman year. We’ve suggested some important conversations – and then even more conversations – for you to have with your student during that summer before college.
As your student moves past the first, transitional year, it may be important to talk with him about what to expect during that potential sophomore slump. Knowing that the second year of college may be significantly different and preparing for some changes will arm your student and possibly prevent some difficult times. This is a good time to have some specific conversations with your student now that he has some perspective on college life and studies. We’d like to suggest seven possible topics. Of course, not all topics are appropriate for everyone. Our last post considered three topics you and your student might discuss. Here are four more.
- Help your sophomore student think carefully about his four (or five) year college plan. First year students are often overwhelmed by the logistics of the college experience. For freshmen, the prospects of managing their new independence, navigating the social world of college, managing their time and settling in, may mean that they don’t necessarily take the “long view.” Now that the largest transition is complete, this is a good time to make a tentative plan and for your student to map out his academic career. Of course, any plan will need to be flexible, but having a plan is important. How many total credits does your student need to graduate? How many did he earn during freshman year? How many will he need to complete each year? Is he on track? Are there courses in his major that are required? When will he plan to take each one? Do some courses have pre-requisites that will need to be completed first? Has he allowed time to get those done? Is your student planning to study abroad or do an internship? Will he gain credit for those experiences? Has he planned accordingly?
There are many factors that can influence college schedules and many factors that your student will need to consider and balance. Now that the mystery of college is not quite so overwhelming, it is important that your student understand what will be required of him and how he will progress toward completing that. It is important that your student feel in control of his plan and his progress. While he may need help and consultation with his advisor, his professors, and even you, it is important that your sophomore student take control of his progress so there will be no surprises later.
- Talk to your sophomore student about potential minors. For some students, settling on a college major is so overwhelming that they haven’t considered a minor. Although a minor is generally not necessary, it is often a good way to balance and expand on a major. This is particularly important for a student who may be having difficulty choosing between two areas for a major.
Help your student think about whether or not she may want to develop a minor. This will be important as she maps out her potential courses over the next three years. What minor might add to what she is studying? What minor might provide an interesting or unique combination of skills? Developing a minor along with the major may strengthen both your student’s understanding of her field of study and her resume. Beginning early to build a minor will help her determine if the subject is helpful and will help her plan her course sequencing.
- Talk to your student about how summer or winter breaks fit in with his overall plans. Perhaps summer and winter breaks are simply vacations – used for relaxation and travel. This can be fine. Perhaps summer and winter breaks are used for a job which helps your student pay for tuition and expenses. This is the reality for more and more students. But help your student think about how summer fits into the overall plan of college.
Is your student going to need to take any summer classes to make up for credits? Can any of those summer classes be taken at a local college and transferred or must they be at your student’s institution? Is your student planning on any summer internships? When and how must they be approved? Will this mean a loss of earning potential in a summer job? Is there a plan for that? Are there school travel opportunities or special interest opportunities over the summer? Help your student think about how best to use summer and winter breaks as part of the overall picture of his college experience. Once again, taking the longer, more comprehensive view of the total experience of the college years may be helpful.
- Talk to your student about life values. This may be a more difficult subject to broach with your student, but can be one of the most rewarding. The college years are years during which many students explore and build important value systems. Of course, they begin with many of the values that they have gained from family. But these are often years of new thinking and questioning. Students may shift some values and solidify others.
Talk to your student about how she feels about life, what matters to her, how she views the world. Encourage her to use her college years to think about the kind of person that she is and wants to become and how she is building experiences that will lead her to explore these things. As the turmoil of the first year of college ends, this is an ideal time for your college sophomore student to think about the decisions that she is making every day and the path she sees for her life – apart from simply classes, career development, and social life. Encourage your student to continue to ask herself, “Who am I?” and “How am I creating the person I want to be?” You may be surprised at some of the answers that you hear, and you may be pleased at how rewarding this conversation can be.