Campus News

October 26, 2011

Pivotal sophomore year is focus of SYE program

Students who participate in Second Year at Emory earn higher grades and are more likely to stay at Emory all four years.

It's called the "sophomore slump," a term for the general malaise afflicting second-year students when the novelty of freshman year has worn off, the classes become more intense and, suddenly, you're on your own on move-in day.

While most colleges and universities focus their energies on orienting freshmen, preparing juniors for studying abroad and transitioning seniors after graduation, Emory is ensuring that sophomores don't get lost in the shuffle.

What began as a pilot project in the Woodruff Residential Center in 2004 has expanded to all sophomores over the last two years. The Second Year at Emory (SYE) program, in partnership with other offices across campus, encourages second-year students to develop greater self-awareness, define their academic goals, connect with campus resources and develop meaningful relationships.   

"Sophomore year is a pivotal year for a lot of decisions, including whether or not a student will remain at Emory," says Andy Wilson, director of residence life and assistant dean for campus life. "Our program has become a national model."

Academic and social programs occur throughout the year, beginning with the SYE Kickoff in August. This includes the Welcome Back Barbeque, a Sophomores Serve volunteer service day and the Sophomore Summit, a convention-style event showcasing campus programs. During Homecoming Week, sophomores receive pins emblazoned with an Emory crest in a ceremony co-sponsored by the Emory Alumni Association.

Less formal gatherings involve sharing a slice of pizza with an academic adviser, attending a seminar for pre-business or pre-health majors or soliciting valuable advice from past study abroad participants.

These events also help students broaden their social networks, which is important for sophomores who may not have found the right niche during their freshman year.

While attendance is not mandatory, SYE serves more than 1,200 second-year students who participate in an average of 10 to 12 programs a year. Starting last year, the Office of Residence Life and Housing began offering rewards points for regular attendees to receive free Dooley-themed merchandise.

Since second-year students at Emory are required to live on campus, SYE offers an added value to residents. Research shows that students who attend SYE events earn higher grades and are more likely to remain at Emory all four years, says Wilson.

"I don't know of any other university that partners with so many different offices on campus," he adds.

Emory College sophomore Niketu Patel, an aspiring psychology major, plans to study abroad in New Zealand or England next year. He has attended more than seven SYE events, held in residence halls and in central locations on campus.

"This year is my time to expand my horizons, see what's available to me and determine what I want to do during the rest of my time here," Patel says. "It's time to get down to business."

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