Year 2 - Sophomores
My advice for first-year students to increase their chances of earning prestigious national fellowships in the future focused on three main recommendations: 1) mapping a four-year plan of courses and opportunities outside of the classroom; 2) gaining additional foreign language experience; and 3) working hard to do well in all classes. For sophomores, I recommend reviewing that advice, because you will likely benefit from one or more of those tips. More exciting is the fact that there are some opportunities to apply for as sophomores, but before I get ahead of myself, here are a few more pointers for the second year.
If you have yet to declare a major, you should be thinking about that now. Reflect upon all of the courses taken last year that interested you the most. You may have liked several courses from different departments that seemed unconnected at the time, but there may have been a common thread among them that accounts for your interest. I recommend trying to understand that link, and which academic major may best help you to explore it.
Unless you are certain about two majors that meet your needs best when combined, I would not necessarily recommend a double major at this point, especially if you’re doing so because you just cannot decide on one. Along similar lines, many students seeking advice ask questions like “What should I minor in?”, and seem to have the impression that if you have 2 majors and 3 minors, your record automatically looks better. Keep in mind that if you double major, and do a mediocre job in both, your record does not look twice as good!
Instead of piling up credentials to add one line on a transcript, I always ask students to “build around their interests”, to improve and diversify their background. Sometimes a second major or another minor works very well, sometimes not so well. The key is making connections that make sense and provide a stronger footing in your chosen field. For example, a student interested in Biological Anthropology would benefit greatly by completing a minor Biology, but I would not recommend that minor for most Anthropology majors. I would also recommend that same student take some Chemistry and Physics, rather than tack on a minor that is less relevant to their interests. Once you complete core and major requirements, you have a limited number of electives remaining, so plan to use them wisely.
Added tips for sophomores include:
- Discuss your interests with faculty, investigate possible research experiences in the future, and as soon as you finish reading this column, get to know the meaning of LUROP (http://www.luc.edu/lurop);
- Play a greater role in any extra-curricular activities you began last year, or experience new activities this year, while being more of a leader and organizer;
- If you plan to study abroad, develop a firm idea of when and where that will be done, as well as how it ties into possible fellowship plans. If you do plan to study abroad during as a junior, you should check out Web sites for the Freeman-Asia, Gilman International, Boren, and Rotary Scholarship programs, and visit our Study Abroad Office in the Sullivan Center.
If confused, seek advice early and often, from university and departmental advisors, and anyone else who may be of assistance. Don’t be shy about your own education.
I hope this helps! - Dr. James M. Calcagno, Fellowship Director and Professor of Anthropology