Review by Stephen G. Pajewski
Associate Director, Information Systems Program
Carnegie Mellon University

The sophomore year of college has received much attention by educators in the last decade. Following the first-year and senior-year “movements,” the second year has also come to be identified as one of significant transition, with students dealing with its own specific issues, such as moving into an academic department, higher-level curriculum challenges, self-image, and finding that the institution that gave them a fair amount of attention and support when they were freshmen has now focused those resources on the following freshman class. Several monographs have been published (including Visible Solutions for invisible students: Helping sophomores succeed (2000) and Shedding light on sophomores: An exploration of the Second college year (2007). This book, sponsored by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, is perhaps the most comprehensive so far.

Long and thorough, this book covers a wide range of the student experience. Its sixteen chapters are written by educators who are well-known in the field of advising, such as Virginia Gordon, John N. Gardner, and M. Lee Upcraft. Several other known authors have contributed to the other publications on sophomores, such as Jerry Pattengale and Lori Schreiner. All of their expertise and perspective in one book makes this a rich resource for anyone who works with sophomore students, such as faculty and staff advisors, career advisors, and student affairs staff.

The book is divided into three sections; the first section, “Foundations,” looks at the impact of the sophomore year, the keys to student success, and the “journey” into self. The literature review on student success gives ample coverage of student development theories. The chapter on self-identity explicates the importance of student exploration, relationship-building, and decision-making. The book’s second section, “Approaches for Engaging Second-Year Students,” looks at ways to promote student success in the second year, through such activities as academic advising, career planning, service learning, study abroad, and spiritual growth.

Part Three, “Campus Practice and Implications,” focuses on program planning and implementation, including ideas for new initiatives, program assessment, and recommendations for strengthening program offerings. For instance, some institutions commit high-level administrative positions to the second year, such as deans of sophomores and directors of sophomore year programs. Three helpful appendices to the book provide a data analysis of a survey of sophomores, a list of discussion questions for focus group meetings, and an outline of principles of good assessment. 

The book makes the case for the need to acknowledge that the second year of college is an important transition period. While institutions help first-year students to adjust to college, they need to help second-year students clarify their plans and help them find the path to achieve their personal and educational goals. The book equips the reader with good examples and ideas for engaging students and fostering their success. 


Shreiner, L. A. & Pattengale, J. (Eds.). (2000). Visible solutions for invisible students: Helping sophomores succeed (Monograph No. 31). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

Tobolowsky, B. F. & Cox, B. E. (Eds.). (2007) Shedding light on sophomores: An exploration of the second college year (Monograph No. 47). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

Helping sophomores succeed: Understanding and improving the second year experience. (2009). Book by Mary Stuart Hunter, Barbara F. Tobolowsky, John N. Gardner, Scott E. Evenbeck, Jerry A. Pattengale, Molly Schaller, Laurie A. Schreiner. Review by Stephen G. Pajewski. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 310 pp. $45.00. ISBN: 978-0-470-19275-7
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