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Voices of the Global Community


Alexa Dean, University of South Carolina 
Brittany Sparks, University of South Carolina 
Kimberly Chamberlain, University of South Carolina 

Recognizing the importance of the first college year, significant time, energy, and resources have been devoted both to studying the first-year experience and developing initiatives to support students in the transition from high school to college. First-year students are often supported by a range of institutional programs and interventions including orientation, first-year seminars, residence life and learning communities, academic advising, and early alert efforts (Keup, 2019). As students’ progress to their second year, many of these institutional supports may no longer be available to them. However, according to the 2019 National Survey of Sophomore Year Initiatives (NSSYI), results, the sophomore success initiative which reaches the most sophomore students is academic advising (Hartman & Young, 2019).

Sophomore students include students aged 18–20 who are in their second full year of college. This article aims to equip advisors with strategies to support students in navigating the “forgotten year” (Tobolowsky, 2008). The literature refers to the forgotten year to describe the internal and occasionally isolating challenges associated with this transitional period. Sophomore students may encounter emotions such as restlessness, homesickness, uncertainty about their major, feelings of loneliness, apathy, and anxiety.

Sophomores are in a stage critical to identity development and are moving through autonomy towards interdependence, as well as developing mature relationships. Students are working through four stages: random exploration, focused exploration, tentative choices, and commitment (Schaller, 2005). Not all students experience every one of these issues, but it seems that many deal with one or more during the second-year transition.

Sophomores at a large, southern research institution in a hospitality program are asked to complete a pre-advising survey. One question asks students to report feelings of loneliness, homesickness, feelings of being overwhelmed about decision making and/or general apathy. In Spring 2023, the instrument was sent to 280 students and received a response rate of 71% (n=200). Figure 1 displays the number of students who identified as experiencing any of these feelings. While the majority of respondents did not report experiencing these internal struggles, it is noteworthy that a significant minority did. Their experiences highlighted how dealing with these internal transitions can exacerbate feelings of disorientation, restlessness, and loneliness. As seen in the number of students struggling with feelings of uncertainty about major, anxiety about decision making, and homesickness, advisors can prioritize assisting students in embracing these feelings as opposed to running from this imperative journey to becoming truly independent individuals.

Figure 1

Sophomore Responses to Pre-Advisement Survey

Encouraging Reflection and Goal Setting in the Second Year

Advisors play a pivotal role in helping students establish clear, actionable objectives through regular check-ins and thoughtful guidance. Advisors can guide students through a process of reflection, facilitating deeper insights into their aspirations. This requires advisors to allocate sufficient time for sophomores, engaging them with thought-provoking questions. Table 1 comprises a list of example questions, each thoughtfully designed to foster self-reflections, personal growth, and the establishment of meaningful goals. Additionally, it provides insight to the intended outcomes or purposes associated with each question.

By reflecting on personal and academic goals, students can identify their core values and understand what truly matters to them. This self-awareness guides them in setting meaningful and authentic objectives. As students’ progress, their goals may evolve or change altogether. Reflection allows them to evaluate growth, refine aspirations, and adjust academic plans accordingly and ultimately reflection allows students to enhance the goal-setting experience by clarifying values, adjusting goals, recognizing achievements, and learning from setbacks.

Table 1

Thought Provoking Questions for Sophomores

Example Questions

Intended Outcomes

What are your academic and career goals?

Clarify goals and align academic and experiential choices accordingly

What will success look like?

Foster a sense of empowerment and agency

What was the biggest change I made within the last year?

Reflect on how they have changed (personally or academically) to determine if there has been growth

What have I done so far?

Empower students to take an active role in their own development, make informed decisions, and chart a course for their future growth and success


Another notable strategy to nurture independent development is goal setting. When students' personal goals align with their academic pursuits, a unique synergy may form, empowering students to make connections between their passions and educational journey, fostering enhanced motivation, focus, and commitment. For instance, if a student's desire to make new friends converges with their academic goal to join a student organization, the magic happens when they find a community that embraces both. By participating in the student organization, they not only build social connections but also enrich their academic experience through collaborative learning and skill development.

By encouraging reflection, academic advisors can amplify the impact of goal setting, guiding students to achieve their objectives while fostering holistic growth and self-discovery. Goal setting is further enriched by the inclusion of reflective practices, both during the initial period of goal establishment and throughout students’ pursuit of their aspirations. Academic advisors should work towards normalizing sophomores’ internal struggles, providing students with the support they need and encouraging them to analyze their experiences. This reflective approach enables students to learn from failures and use them as steppingstones toward future success.

Goal setting holds immense potential for empowering students and shaping their educational journey. When personal goals and academic aspirations collide, the magic of goal overlap comes to life, leading to transformative experiences that enrich students' lives in ways beyond academics. Through this synergy, students may develop a profound sense of belonging as they connect with a community that shares their interests and supports their academic pursuits. Moreover, aligning academic objectives with personal growth cultivates enduring motivation and resilience. This dual drive empowers students to persevere through challenges, recognizing the value of their educational journey. This synergistic overlap also guides students towards a holistic approach to education, enabling them to seamlessly integrate academic and personal spheres for a comprehensive college experience.

Intentionality and Flexibility

Based on the NACADA core competencies, academic advisors are expected to be knowledgeable in a variety of areas including curriculum, degree programs, campus/community resources, and more (NACADA, 2017). Advisors working with first year students commonly discuss topics related to their transition from high school to college as well as curricular information to help them understand their new degree program. As referred to earlier, students approaching their second year can find themselves in a period of random or focused exploration (Schaller, 2005). Advisors working with this population of students may expand beyond the degree program into goal setting, decision-making, and discussion of future career options. Every student is different and will subscribe to their own individual timeline, making it imperative that advisors be flexible enough to grow and pivot alongside their students while also navigating themes universal to sophomore students. Because of the breadth and depth of information that advisors are required to provide to students, it is important to consider the timing of discussion around specific topics.

Developing Resources

For students in these phases, it is a priority for university faculty, staff, and advisors to provide students with opportunities for exploration. This is dependent on the university but may include activities like study abroad, pre-professional organizations, internships, and service learning (Schaller, 2005). This information can be given to a student through a verbal conversation as they meet for advisement, or alternatively a resource can be provided that condenses the information and makes it more accessible. For example, many university offices are required to have their own website where they can advertise events and information to students. This spreads resources across several different webpages, making it increasingly difficult and confusing for students to access. Advisors, in collaboration with relevant institutional offices, should be encouraged to create a resource specific to the offerings of their university and collect information regarding exploration in one place. Flipped advising offers one means of accomplishing this, including the usage of learning modules or responsive forms. The overarching goal is to develop a single, comprehensive resource, rather than several, to improve access, reduce student confusion, maintain student motivation throughout the exploration process, and minimize feelings of being overwhelmed.


Second-year students experience the exploration phases associated with the development of independence and decision making (Schaller, 2005). This requires advisors to be knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics including campus resources, reflective practices, and goal setting. The profound impact of advisors on the sophomore experience cannot be overstated. Advisors play an indispensable role in guiding students to draw connections between personal and academic aspirations, as well as towards holistic growth and achievement. These experiences can successfully catapult students into their remaining upperclassmen years and provide them with the tools to make difficult decisions. As the second year of college often presents unique challenges, advisors are positioned to offer strategies that empower students to navigate the internal transitions and external exploration they experience during this pivotal time.


Hartman, C., & Young, D. G. (2019). Sustaining support for sophomore students: Results from the 2019 National Survey of Sophomore-Year Initiatives (Research Reports on College Transitions No. 11). University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Keup, J. (2019). Institutional attention to and integration of the first-year experience. In D. Young (Ed.), 2017 National Survey on the First-Year Experience: Creating and Coordinating Structures to Support Student Success (pp. 53–61). University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

Schaller, M. A. (2005). Wandering and wondering: Traversing the uneven terrain of the second college year. About Campus, 10(3), 17–24. https://doi.org/10.1002/abc.131

Tobolowsky, B. F. (2008). Sophomores in transition: The forgotten year. New Directions for Higher Education, 2008(144), 59–67. https://doi.org/10.1002/he.326


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.