Why Making it to Your Second Year of College Matters
Last updated September 5, 2023
While your first year in college can be an exciting and welcoming change, it also can be a tough adjustment, which has the potential to affect your grades, social life, and mental health. These challenges can lead 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.
Making it to your second year in college is critical to achieving your academic and professional goals. Research consistently shows that college graduates have higher earning potential, lower unemployment rates, and greater job security than those without a degree. However, staying on track in college can be challenging, with many obstacles that can make it difficult to succeed. From financial barriers and academic struggles to not feeling like you belong, it's common for students to feel overwhelmed and consider withdrawing. Despite these challenges, making it to your second year is possible with persistence and the right support. Here’s what it means to persist to your second year and what you can do now to prepare for it.
You have another chance to explore your options
Because your first and second years of college are dedicated to completing your general education courses, you have room to experiment and find new interests. This can include things like taking classes outside of your comfort zone, learning about majors that interest you, and joining groups or clubs you’re curious about. Many students spend their first two years of college adjusting to being at a new school; making new friends, trying new things, and learning new perspectives. This time is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, define your goals, and think about what career path you want to pursue in the future. Don’t stress if you feel you didn’t accomplish enough during your first year; with time, you’ll be able to narrow down your interests and goals, declare or change your major, and pursue an area of study you’re interested in!
It might be harder to return to college
Even if you intend to re-enroll after withdrawing from college, it can be difficult to come back. Once students leave college, they can become comfortable quickly with their new job, familial obligations, or routines that can make it more challenging to re-enroll in school. Make sure you are taking this into consideration as you weigh your options.
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. After your first year, you most likely know what the best study and food spots on campus are, how to attend office hours, where to buy textbooks, and how to get around campus with ease. Familiarizing yourself with your campus and college norms in your first year means you know what to expect in your second year, allowing you to spend more time focusing on what you want to study, 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/quarter, don’t be hard on yourself! 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.
What you can do to persevere to your second year
Meet with your academic advisor
Meet with your academic advisor regularly (at least once per term) to discuss or establish your academic plan for the year, register for classes, get the support you need, and determine if you’re on track to graduate.
Keep tabs on your financial aid
Some students withdraw from college after their first year because they realize they didn’t receive enough financial aid. Make sure you familiarize yourself with FAFSA renewal deadlines, talk to a financial aid advisor about your options, and know where to find scholarships if you need extra funds.
Find ways to engage outside of the classroom
Get familiar with on-campus resources
All colleges have many free and low-cost resources available to their students, allowing them to take care of their mental and physical health (the student health center, counseling center, and gyms), receive academic help (the learning center) and make new friends (clubs, groups, and intramural sports). Be sure to utilize all the free resources made available to you - this can save you lots of money and time!
Surround yourself with community
When you’re connected to your campus community, you’re less likely to drop-out of college. Whether it’s through finding a club that fits your interests, joining a study group, or participating in a team sport, being in community with others can give you a sense of belonging.
While there are many reasons to make it to your second year of college, 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. Before making any decision, we strongly encourage you to talk with a trusted educator or parent/guardian to help you determine what’s best for your situation.
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