First-Year Tips for Success in Your Sophomore Year

Author name
Christina Plante, Assistant Director, Duke Career Center

Congratulations on getting to the end of your first year at Duke! You are in the home stretch of finishing your classes and moving on to your summer plans. This is a great time to reflect on what you learned about yourself and to think about what you hope to accomplish next year. Here is our best advice on setting yourself up for success in your sophomore year.

Find your groove

You have learned the ropes by now and have a better grasp on how to handle your college level coursework and activities. Think about how you want to set up your days next semester, who you want to surround yourself with, and what support or resources you need to be successful. Implementing a solid routine can help you prioritize the things that matter and be more intentional about what occupies your time. Having trouble finding your groove? Utilize the Academic Resource Center to have a conversation about learning style or time management, visit CAPS, or speak with a Career Adviser, depending on your most pressing concerns.

Get the information you need to decide your major

One big milestone of sophomore year is declaring your major. This deadline will come up fast so start thinking about it now and do some research over the summer. Ask yourself what majors, minors, certificates sound good. Do the courses look exciting and interesting, and what are possible career prospects? How can I find out more about my interest areas and what is my overall purpose? Treat this process like a research project. Gather information from Directors of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), your College Advisor, an adviser in the Career Center, alumni, and others by asking questions to make an informed decision. 

These questions may be helpful:

Questions to ask yourself

• If I were to choose a major at this moment, what would it be and why?

• What skills do I want to learn in order to prepare for a career?

• If I could do one thing for free, what would it be?

• What can I see myself doing for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?

• What are the positive/negative sides of choosing this major?

• What jobs/hobbies/extracurricular activities have I enjoyed the most so far?

• How would I spend my time if money didn’t matter?

• What are my goals at Duke? What are my goals in my career and life? How can they coexist?

• What is my gut telling me regarding major choice?

• Have I talked to anyone in the majors I am considering?

• Have I met a Duke alum yet, and asked them what they studied?

• Have I looked at Duke alumni on LinkedIn and/or Duke Alumni Directory to see their majors and different positions?

• What interests do I want to explore?

• Are there any problems I would like to address or solve? How might what I study factor in to my ability to tackle those problems?

• What have I been successful in so far? (You can measure this success by coursework you’ve taken, organizations you’ve founded or been a part of, athletics, or by utilizing a particular skillset.)

• What subjects do I like the most? Do these subjects come naturally to me?

Questions to ask departments or advisors

• Does this major allow for research, study abroad, and/or internships/fellowships?

• Why do students select this major?

• What are the implications of majoring in this subject versus minoring in it?

• How much flexibility does this major have? (Consider those college/life/career goals)

• What are the specific course requirements for this major?

• Are there scholarships/funding available specifically for students in this major?

• What skills will this major help me develop?

• What kinds of jobs do students with this major typically pursue?

• Is graduate school usually required to work in the fields associated with this major?

Get involved

Now that you have a better handle on things, it is a great time to start getting more involved on campus. Use DukeGroups  to locate student clubs and try them out before actually committing to them. Make an appointment with a Director of Academic Engagement (DAE) or the Career Center to get a better understanding of what co-curricular programs exist on Duke’s campus that align with your interests. Getting involved in few meaningful experiences is key, rather than trying to collect as many experiences as possible.

Assess what needs to give

Already joined several things but need to re-evaluate?  Great! Take time to see what is on your plate and what might need to give. What purpose is it serving? What are you learning? Is it worth how much time you are putting into it? Adapt your strategy each semester and do not be afraid to let go of things that are no longer serving a purpose.

How are you using and improving your career management competencies?

What are you doing with all the knowledge and information you have gathered this year?  Who are you connecting with on and off campus? How are you discovering self-awareness of your skills, interests, values and learning styles? Are you researching different industries and talking to people in these areas? How are you adapting your plans so you are getting the experience you want? How are you telling your story and practicing your networking skills? Finally, what are you implementing to find answers to your career planning questions? Get more information on Duke’s career management competencies.

Get ready for a summer experience or internships

Your next summer internship will be here before you know it! Opportunities will be coming through in the fall and spring. Create and/or improve your resume and cover letters by viewing our Guides online and coming by Drop-in Advising in the fall when classes are in session.   Think about creating a LinkedIn profile, practice your interviewing skills, and attend our career fairs. If you are not sure what you want to do next summer, make an appointment with a career adviser  to discuss options.

Make time for wellness

You have now experienced the demanding course load at Duke and the not optional, but crucial need for wellness in your busy schedule. Let’s be honest, if you are not eating well and sleeping enough, it’s easy to go into an overdrive of unhealthy habits. Remind yourself of your favorite ways to unwind and ease the stress of your day. Make space for wellness on your calendar as nonnegotiable time and know that to be successful in other areas of your life, you need to have the basics taken care of.

We are here to help guide you through your sophomore year! Remember you are not alone in this process and you can utilize the Career Center from away over the summer through online or phone appointments!  Make sure to set aside time for your career planning each week to intentionally Design Your Duke experience.