Fighting sophomore slump

Posted on: 9/24/2013; Updated on: 2/7/2014
By Liz McCarthy, 803-777-2848

In years past, students returning to campus for their sophomore year at Carolina faced many challenges – living off campus for the first time, changing majors, career development, just to name a few. And they mostly dealt with these issues on their own. 

But USC’s Office of Student Engagement is changing how the university treats its second-year students. Sophomore September, the monthlong “welcome back” of programming, is just the start, says Kimberly Dressler, coordinator for student engagement. 

“Sophomores may not have the best transition experience. They leave freshmen year having lived in residence halls and taken U101 classes where there is a strong sense of community and support. Sophomore year comes around and they move off campus, move into more challenging major classes or switch their major,” she says. “They’re starting to think about where they go from here.’” 

Studies at USC and nationally have found that sophomores face challenges and are often the most dissatisfied students on campus. But USC’s Sophomore September is one step to help the 4,700 second-year students continue to feel at home at Carolina. The month of programming offers multiple events (students could win prizes for attending all of them) for students to get involved and connect to campus. 

“We want to say ‘we are so excited you are still at USC. We love that you came back,’” Dressler says. “It also connects them to resources — to support their academic success and promote their involvement in high impact practices such as internships, peer leadership and service-learning..”   

The events don’t stop in October, though. Throughout the year, Dressler’s office provides updates and other events for second-year students to help them along the way. In the spring semester, students get notes about professional development events to help them find internships and advance their careers. 

Overall, Dressler hopes to bring awareness to campus to look out for sophomores. By working with academic advisers and other faculty and staff members on campus, Dressler is building a network of groups to help sophomores.   

“They may be going through a different experience than our freshmen, who are new and everything is exciting, to our juniors and seniors who often know their paths,” she says. “Sophomores may still be questioning and we should be open to having those conversations with them to help them explore their options.” 


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