Levy: Saving Our Sophomores

We should not abandon sophomores when they need support the most.

by Gabrielle Levy | 10/17/19 2:15am

Many college campuses have high rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, and Dartmouth is no exception. The College does a lot to attempt to get ahead of these issues at the beginning of freshman year, but things can still be quite challenging for sophomores. Does Dartmouth’s focus on the newest class cause sophomores to fall through the cracks? 

Upon returning to campus this fall, many of my friends and I discussed how strange it was to come back to school after a long break and jump right back into the swing of things. Freshman year, we were treated to the camaraderie of First-Year Trips before being led through a week of talks and fun social events. We were told what to expect, how to preempt stress and loneliness and what to focus on in the upcoming weeks. We were given handout after colorful handout of resources and numbers and support groups. In contrast, sophomore year, we went to pick up a key, unpacked and got ready for class the next day.

Of course, focusing on supporting freshmen in their transition from high school to college life is standard practice among all colleges. After all, after having been at school for one year, sophomores should have everything figured out. Right?

Wrong. In fact, sophomore year can be as great a challenge as freshman year for a multitude of reasons. First, freshman-year floors are unique compared to the floors that Dartmouth students live on every other year: Without set friend groups, most first-year students bond and become close with their floormates by hanging out in each other’s rooms, lounging in the hallway or simply brushing their teeth together at night. On upper-class floors, on the other hand, many students don’t even know their neighbors, nobody hangs out in hallways and many rooms have their own bathrooms — which makes casual interactions with dorm-mates even less likely.

This contrast in living situations can be an adjustment for many students. Despite being content with my current dorm, I felt the loss of my first-year floor “family.” Some argue that the College doesn’t have to foster a sense of family for sophomores because they will have already established communities for themselves through extracurriculars like a capella groups or the Dartmouth Outing Club. While this is true for many students, it isn’t true for all.

Some would also say that a rush class can fill this gap. While I could write an entire column on this topic alone, it is safe to say that the stress of rush can have a large toll on the mental and emotional well-being of students. Students who drop or end up in a house they are unhappy with are faced with a lack of resources and a sense of being shut out of Dartmouth’s seemingly all-encompassing, yet exclusive, Greek system. On the other hand, students who do end up with what they want may still feel overwhelmed by the surge of new faces and lack of familiarity.

Lastly, sophomore year is the time when push comes to shove academically. Instead of feeling free to explore introductory classes and slowly meander our way through distributive requirements, sophomores are placed under increasing pressure to have our majors determined and career goals figured out. After all, recruiting begins sophomore summer, and major declarations are due by each student’s fifth term. 

At the end of the day, Dartmouth can be a scary and stressful place no matter what year you are in. While one might argue that the same level of support is available to upperclassmen if they choose to seek it out (e.g. through meeting with deans and getting to know upper-class UGAs), it is important that the College continues to advertise resources to sophomores as much as they do for freshmen. Just because students are no longer bright-eyed freshmen does not mean they do not need a reminder every now and then of the help available to them. It is important for the College to remember that sophomores may not have everything figured out yet, and to continue to support their students even after they take their final exams of freshman year.