1. Break some of those bad freshman year habits.
Now that you’re older and wiser, you have to stop with the freshman habits. I don’t mean give up the free food or procrastinating — there’s no getting rid of that. The all-nighters are going to get harder and harder, so maybe cut down on those. You might also want to hold back on all the Thirsty Thursdays along with sexiling your roommate. Not to mention that you should probably stop adding everyone you meet to Facebook. Also I hope you burned that lanyard.
2. Pick a major, pronto.
If you’re an American student, sophomore year is when you have to pick your major. Why we can’t just roam around taking whatever classes we want is beyond me, but you can’t fight the dean’s office. The advice I gave the freshmen in another piece I did was to be open and try things and you’ll figure it out eventually. Well, now it’s time to settle on just one or two of them. You might feel like you wasted all your time and are scrambling to pick something for the sake of picking something. DON’T. If you’ve hated every class you’ve tried, pick a subject your friend enjoys and it could be a fit. Now is not the time to panic — that comes in junior year. Be honest with yourself, even if your major isn’t “practical”; there’s no sense in doing something you hate.
3. Get an internship or job. You’ll be glad you did.
You’re getting a good handle on this place, but you still have only three years before you get thrown into the real world, where the jobs require experience and references. Now is a good time to look around and see if you can grab some of that cherished experience everyone is always talking about. Becoming an RA is a possibility. Jobs on campus want kids who will be around for a while so they don’t need to retrain people, and it can be some extra cash in your pocket. Lots of the top internships are for juniors and seniors, so keep an eye out for those next year — unpaid labor might be the worst, but at least you’ll work in the field you’re preparing for.
4. On that note, time to get to know some professors.
This isn’t to say you need to get these professors to write you letters of rec, but you should get to know the people who work in your department and who can recommend you classes or help you with research down the road. Especially if they are awesome human beings with crazy careers. They do exist. (The flattery is optional, of course, but it usually doesn’t hurt.)
5. Do some damage control.
Maybe your freshman grades were amazing. Maybe they were all right. Maybe they were sort of terrible. It’s important now that you’re a year older and wiser to make the climb back to a high GPA (or staying at the good one you have), especially if grad school is in your future. You’re paying thousands of dollars for this education, you should get as much out of it as you can.
6. Go help a freshman. Seriously.
They might be annoying and strangely sweaty, but you were in their shoes not a year ago. Remember all those upperclassmen who helped you when you were lost? Time to pay it back. Positive karma never hurts.
7. Understand you’re going to have to sit through some pretty bad major requirements.
You’re not going to love every single class you have to take for your major — it’s a fact. There are ways to get through it though. If there are multiple class options, look for the best professor available, because a good professor can make anything interesting. Know that it’s just one class and it’ll be over soon. Try and get a friend with you so you at least have someone to share your misery with.
8. Bad news: This (may) be harder than freshman year.
You might think I am full of it, but it’s true. Freshman year you were full of hope and energy and everything was brand new and shiny. This year, you’re tired, you’re still figuring out how to balance school and friends and sleep, and how to produce the work your professors want from you. It’s no easy task, especially without all the abundant excitement from freshman year powering you through it. You might eventually go to class in your pajamas if you haven’t already. No shame, dressing like a fashion model/walking college billboard is a freshman’s game.