When talking about second-year transition initiatives, it’s easy to focus on instructional strategies, faculty collaborations, or splashy events—but don’t lose sight of the small, everyday interactions your staff have with students. Surveys show that second-year students feel less supported than their fellow undergrads, a perception that could manifest itself as a barrier between them and your library’s outreach efforts.
One of the challenges of working with second-year students is finding them: unlike first-year students, who can often be located thanks to FYE programs, second-years aren’t as easy to connect with. While more campuses are building second-year programs (46% of institutions that responded to the 2014 National Survey of Sophomore-Year Initiatives reported offering such programs), they take a variety of forms. In fact, most of the initiatives have only been in existence 2-5 years and are likely not as comprehensive as their first-year counterparts.
Last week I talked about the unique needs of second-year students, a group all too often overlooked in higher education. The “sophomore slump” is a phenomenon we take for granted, but there are strategies we can use to support students who, after making it through their first year, still face challenging transitions. Here are a few things I’ve learned about working with second-year students as a faculty mentor for Ohio State’s Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) and as the coordinator of library workshops for the STEP Professional Development Co-Curricular series:
What is special about the second year of college? Following the excitement and the external transition forced in the first year of college, the second year seems quieter at first glance. These students have figured out how to navigate campus, made the transition to the more rigorous expectations of college courses, and made friends with peers. However, the idea of a sophomore slump is not new: I recently found an article dating back to 1956 on the subject. The author claimed that, at his institution, the “sophomore slump” was not as widespread as expected (Freeman, 1956). Yet even in this article skeptical of the concept, he notes challenges common to second-year students.