Sophomore year is traditionally the time when students begin questioning their choice of major and thinking more intently about their careers.
But as recently as a few years ago, there were no formal programs in place at Johns Hopkins to help sophomores with these difficult decisions. There were established Orientation activities to help freshmen get acclimated, and programs to guide juniors and seniors as they sought internships and made post-college plans. But sophomores did not always realize the importance of planning so early and using the Career Center, though it has always served students in all class years.
Recognizing this "sophomore gap," university leadership decided to address it by assembling a task force to take a closer look at the sophomore experience. One of the outcomes of the task force is that the Career Center now provides services tailored to sophomores, including workshops, seminars, and one-on-one career counseling.
"The main goal of the sophomore programming is to really help students navigate that sophomore year when all this questioning begins to occur," said Tracy Carter, a student career counselor with 15 years of experience at Johns Hopkins.
Whether a student has specific career plans in mind or has no idea where to begin, Carter and the Career Center staff want sophomores to know that there are valuable resources at their disposal.
During the fall semester, workshops are offered that aim to identify participants' interests, recommend relevant majors, teach students how to compile a professional resume, and help them build a portfolio of resume-boosting experiences.
The sophomore resume workshops help students transition their resumes from high school to college and showcase their most important experiences. Sophomore Ian Hooley, a materials science and engineering major from Milan, Italy, learned about a resume workshop from a weekly email Carter sends to sophomores, and he decided to have his resume critiqued by career counselors.
"The career counselors are so knowledgeable about what employers are looking for on a professional resume," Hooley said. "I was surprised to see that formatting and word choice can make a big difference in the quality of a resume."
During Intersession, the Career Center, in conjunction with the Office of Academic Advising and the Office of Pre-Professional Advising & Programs, runs a one-week course designed to help students identify and understand their values and interests and begin exploring specific careers. In the spring, the programming focuses on planning a meaningful summer experience, addressing how students can prepare for internships and research opportunities.
The Career Center counselors have observed an increase in the number of sophomores reaching out to career counselors and participating in programming since the initiative began. "The response to these sophomore programs has been incredible," Carter said.
Sophomore Claire Schwimmer, an economics major from Westport, Conn., frequents the Career Center for advice on searching for a summer internship and connecting with the Johns Hopkins alumni network. Schwimmer, who is interested in microfinance and small technology startups, said she didn't realize the Career Center had so many resources for such a specific career field.
Erica Zehnder is a sophomore economics major from Elk Grove, Calif. Read more of her work at Hopkins Interactive.