“We were not freshmen, yet we felt as though we were treated like them.”
That was a comment from a college student who had just completed his sophomore year, who I will call “A.” He was working in the Noel-Levitz offices with me, and I used the opportunity to interact with him and discuss his attitudes toward the transition from his freshman to sophomore years.
Though one may expect second-year students to be soaring in their academic experiences, having effectively traversed their path through the first year of college and moving into study of a major, we know from our direct experiences with students—as well as through attrition and transfer statistics—that not all students enter their second year with optimism and a sense of academic well-being. (My colleague Tim Culver listed some important studies in this blog post.) In fact, some may be experiencing frustration or even malaise with a system that they don’t understand or that they misperceive. If so, what might be underlying changes in motivation and aggravation among these students?
A’s comments about his sophomore year are reflective of his changing academic and social identity, as well as his perceived lack of relevance with curriculum and a sense of belonging in the campus community:
“[College] suddenly, without my intentions, turned from the unknown adventure into adulthood back into school… the newness was over, the friends were already made, and the expectations already set. It was the start of just another year of school.”