Although sophomores have a lot more to juggle than freshmen, they still have some time and freedom to figure out where their passions lie.
But by the end of sophomore year—and in time for the summer after sophomore year—students should be ready to commit to certain activities and set the theme for the rest of their high school years.
Let’s look at some case studies to make things more concrete.
Case Study #1: Mark, University of Pennsylvania
Mark attended the University of Pennsylvania. As a high school student, he was obviously a bright and motivated student but he didn’t have any particularly outstanding skills; nor was he unusually brilliant.
Mark knew from very early on that he wanted to be a business major. In the summer after his sophomore year, he applied for a position as a teller at a major bank and he continued to work this position year-round over the next two years, putting in ten to sixteen hours a week at this job while maintaining a solid GPA.
What did this extracurricular activity demonstrate about Mark? It showed that Mark, a seemingly ordinary kid, possessed some remarkable qualities.
- First of all, he was reliable, well beyond the norm for a kid of his age. A major bank wouldn’t employ anyone who was less than dependable.
- Second of all, Mark was extraordinarily persistent and consistent. He didn’t just drop this activity when things got hectic at school. He spent a sizeable portion of his week on the job…and continued to do so for two solid years.
- Third of all, Mark had a great ability to juggle schoolwork and a real job. In a nutshell: Mark showed character.
You don’t have to be extraordinary to have extraordinary extracurricular activity.
One thing to take away from this case study is that an extraordinary extracurricular activity doesn’t depend on having extraordinary talents.
Let’s face it. There are only so many phenoms like Tiger Woods and Mark Zuckerberg walking around in the world. Fortunately, though, an extracurricular activity can be extraordinary because it displays an extraordinarily well developed and admirable character. And although we can’t create talent where there is none, we can certainly foster character.
Another thing to note from this case study is that Mark wouldn’t have had the option of pursuing this one activity for such a long and impressive period of time if he hadn’t started early enough.
Students should really make sure to use the summers after their sophomore years wisely. Of course Mark knew what he wanted to do from really early on, and he never changed his mind.
Students who aren’t quite as sure about things as Mark should still make sure to spend the summer trying something new, something challenging.
Now let’s consider, what could a student like Mark add on to his extracurricular activities his junior year to build on his profile? Taking a business elective would be a good idea. So would participating in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), either taking up a leadership position in the club or founding a branch if the club doesn’t already exist.
Case Study #2: June
Let’s look at another case study.
June was very interested in journalism.
She attended a high school with a really stellar, award-winning school newspaper. Becoming an editor at this newspaper is big news: it’s a much-coveted position and colleges know it!
For June to be a serious contender for the position of editor-in-chief her senior year, she had to start strategizing as a sophomore. She had to start acting like a leader from very early on: she had to be willing to take on additional responsibilities; she had to be bold enough to float new ideas; she had to get to know faculty advisors and seek to learn from current editors.
Now if June had attended a high school where the journalism program wasn’t as competitive, she wouldn’t have needed to get started so early or pursue things so aggressively. However, in that case, she also shouldn’t have satisfied herself with scoring a readily available and inconsequential position.
A student with true initiative would create opportunities in a situation like this.
Case Study #3: Danielle
Another student I counseled, Danielle, did just this.
Not satisfied with the caliber of her school newspaper—or with the caliber of her school in general—she founded a quarterly magazine with a political tilt where students could explore and express their views.
At the same time, she lobbied her school to add more AP courses to the curriculum. Though she found herself in a mediocre school with limited offerings, Danielle proved herself to be a true leader. She left behind a concrete legacy when she matriculated at Harvard.
These are just a few examples of students who made good use of their sophomore years. For sophomores reading this now, I’d advise them to be optimistic!
Students who are open to figuring out what they’re really good at and what they really love will have a better chance of finding their talents and passions!