Why Making it to Your Second Year in College Matters
Last updated May 31, 2022
While your first year in college can be an exciting and welcoming change, it also can be a tough adjustment - affecting your grades, social life, and mental health. It can seem like there’s no end in sight, leading you to think about taking a gap year or dropping out of college altogether. If this describes you, you’re not alone - of the undergraduate students who withdraw from college, 30% of those students withdraw in the summer between their freshman and sophomore years, according to the Education Data Initiative.
However, making it to your second year in college matters. If you decide to come back after withdrawing, it may be harder to return and graduate. Not graduating college can also mean higher chances of facing unemployment and earning less than those who do graduate, and you are more likely to default on student loans, affecting your credit score and future income. Whether or not you decide to continue onto your second year of college is a very personal decision, and you ultimately choose what’s best for you. Here’s what it means to persist to your second year and what you can do now to prepare for it. Also hear from 3 of our #WeBelongInCollege winners about their journeys to succeed in college!
You have another chance to explore your options
Because your first and second years are dedicated to completing your general education courses, you have room to experiment and find new interests. You also spent your first year adjusting to being at a new school - you likely have different friends, tried different things, and learned new perspectives. This time is a chance to figure out who you are and where you want to be. Persisting to your second year also gives you a chance to choose your major (if you’re undecided) or change your major without affecting your time to graduation.
You’re more familiar with your college campus and culture
Whether you live on campus or commute from home, you’ve taken the time in your first year to experience what it’s like to be a college student - you know how early to arrive for classes, what office hours are, and where to buy textbooks. You also know your way around campus better. Finding your classes is easier and saves time, plus you know the best places to eat or study. Maybe you even found some hidden gems on campus - like the UC San Diego Stuart Collection, University of Washington reading room, or the botanical garden at Elon University! Familiarizing yourself with your campus and college norms in your first year means you know what to expect in your second year - therefore you spend more time on studying, making friends, and enjoying your surroundings.
Received bad grades or fell behind in your first year? You can make up for it!
If you fell behind in your first year or had a bad semester, don’t be so hard on yourself! Isaiah, one of our #WBIC winners also had the same experiences during his first year in college: “A few weeks into classes I realized my head just wasn’t in the game”, he describes, “I missed a few assignments, I slept through a few classes…I was just falling behind”. You are not alone!
Since your first and second years are focused on general education courses, you have a chance to retake classes and improve your GPA. During your first year you also might have picked up study strategies along the way, which you can apply in your second year. Another #WBIC winner, Janelle, reflects on her own experiences: “Our paths - we always think it’s straightforward, but there’s always another rock, always another turn, always something. But that doesn’t mean there’s still not the end of the road”. Things don’t always go to plan, and that’s OK!
It might be harder to return to college
Even if you intend to re-enroll after withdrawing from college, you might lose the desire or motivation to come back. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 30% of students re-enroll in college after they have dropped out.
While it is harder to return to college after a period of time, it’s not impossible! Elizabeth, another #WBIC winner, had to withdraw from her first year of college but returned 4 years later. “It is possible”, she says, “You can still go back!”.
Persevere to your second year! What you can do now
- Meet with your advisor to register for classes, create your academic plan, and determine if you’re on track towards graduation.
- Check your financial aid. Some students withdraw from college after their first year because they didn’t receive enough financial aid. Make sure you familiarize yourself with FAFSA renewal deadlines, and know where to find scholarships if you need extra funds.
- Research and apply for internships, jobs, study abroad, and study away opportunities. This can give you something to look forward to in your second year!
- Figure out a planning/time management system to help you plan ahead in your coursework and set yourself up for success.
- Get to know the on-campus resources. This was an important factor in Isaiah’s college journey and experience. He emphasizes, “Use every resource available to you, and make this experience a great one!”
- Get your mental health in check. With the stress of the pandemic, many students have chosen to take time off from college. Get to know the mental health resources available now so that you can access them later.
- Surround yourself with community. From tutoring to mental health, when you’re connected to the help you need you’re less likely to drop-out.“Make sure that you have your professors, your family, your friends…on your side”, Elizabeth says, “It takes a whole town, whole community of people to help you succeed in college.”
- Remember why you’re here - be your own motivation! Janelle describes the self-motivation that pushed her through, “You have to get yourself up, and sometimes you have to be the one to push you and encourage you”
While we give you reasons why it’s important to make it to your second year, deciding to take a gap year, withdrawing from college, or choosing another path is a very personal decision and one you can only make for yourself. We strongly encourage you to talk with a trusted educator or guardian to help you determine what’s best for your situation.
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