The Class of 2022
Sophomore year exists in limbo. You’ve braved the changes of freshman year, but are yet to truly feel the overwhelming stresses of junior and senior year. So, what defines sophomore year? Though often overlooked, there are still an abundance of academic, social, and extracurricular pressures dictating the lives of sophomores. In this article, a variety of voices — ranging from AP students to teachers, from athletes to theatre kids — share their stories and experiences regarding this year of in-betweens.
As students, sophomores face a new level of rigor in their primary area of focus — academics. This year, many sophomores are taking their first AP course. Taught by Dr. McNiel, AP World History consists of many LEQs (long essay questions), DBQs (document based questions), and a ten-page research paper. According to the course syllabus, “the main goal of this course is for you to better understand historical data, analyze it, and be able to write clearly about your conclusions. This course should also give you a better understanding of the modern world and how different cultures developed the characteristics they have today.”
DMAC finds that his class is challenging as it’s “the first class in which they are in a pool of like minded students.” This creates a more high pressure environment. Sophomores Eliza Young, Gabrielle Hart, and Dev Katyal shared their perspectives on their AP World class. Dev mentions that “the grading is much more strict this year, and there is more in-class writing.” All three agreed that the research paper they are currently working on has been the most stressful assignment so far this year.
A survey on various aspects of their class was sent out to the sophomore grade, and 34 responses were received. Academically, 47.1% of sophomores survey participants believe that school is harder than last year, while only 17.6% believe that it is easier.
When asked to give advice to freshmen, many survey takers said not to take too many hard classes or overwhelm yourself. One sophomore wrote this: “Meet with your teachers, it doesn’t have to be on the subject they teach. Meet with them about study tips or activities going around school. Find that teacher you can always turn to and talk when you are having a bad day. Let yourself find your friends and other things like sports and clubs that make you happy. It’s important to not overwork yourself, the beginning of freshman year can be difficult but I promise everything will work out.”
To decompress after a long day of school, many sophomores are involved in after-school activities such as the arts through Stage One. To many sophomores, Stage One is less of a stressful environment, and more of a time when they can unwind and relax after their long day in school.
We asked a few sophomores what the biggest difference is between being a freshman and a sophomore in Stage One. When we spoke to Mimi Shea, who plays Oliver Twist in the upcoming spring musical, “Oliver!,” she noted “I feel like I have more of a connection to the seniors. As a freshmen, or in my experience at least, I kind of was scared of them since they were so much older than me. Now I have a couple of them that are some of my best friends.”
Another Stage One Player, Maren Knutson, also explained how as a sophomore you are more of a leader rather than being a freshman who doesn’t know what they’re doing. She stated; “When you're a sophomore you are considered as more of a leadership role. Not necessarily as big as a junior or senior but someone that people can look up to.”
High school is much more than what happens in the classroom alone. In addition to the heightened pressure sophomores feel in the realm of academics, certain social pressures linger from freshman year. When asked about changes in his friend group, sophomore Finn Jensen answered that his friends had not shifted much since the year before. Finn remarks that, “I do feel like I know and am friends with more people this year; in other words, I feel more connected to the community this year.” To contrast, sophomores Ellie Hanley, Annie Patrick, and Erin Machado stated that their friend groups had, in fact, changed a bit since freshman year.
On the subject of friendships, all five of the sophomores interviewed agreed that they had either the same number or more close friends this year. As a result, though, friend groups may switch around during sophomore year, the amount of close friends a student has remains pretty constant.
The sophomore interviewees stated that cliques are not really a major component in their grade. Ellie noted that cliques are present “a little bit” within the social scene, while Finn said that while “there are definitely specific friend groups, almost everyone seems to get along well.”
And yet, results from a sophomore survey seem to say otherwise. Of the 34 responses, 88.2% believe that their grade has a lot of cliques. Whether “cliques” connotes positively or negatively to this group of sophomores is unknown. Perhaps, though, divisions between friend groups exist, they don’t manage to disrupt an overall sense of class camaraderie as the traditional sense of “cliques” may suggest.
Sophomore year is in no way less stressful on the athletic front. 87.5% of sophomore survey participants have not started the recruiting process. However, it is important to note that lacrosse was one of the leading sports in early recruiting, and “a 2017 NCAA study revealed that 81 percent of women’s lacrosse student-athletes had their first recruiting contact with a college coach prior to the start of their junior year.” This led to the NCAA passing a rule in 2017 that stated “college coaches can contact student-athletes beginning September 1 of their junior year via verbal offers, emails, calls, texts and recruiting letters.” Through the implementation of this rule, middle schoolers and freshmen could stress less about college recruiting.
And yet, for the current sophomore class this rule means that how they play this summer is critical in defining their junior year recruitment process. We asked Iman Haddad, a current sophomore lacrosse goalie, if the recruitment process made her more anxious. She responded, “Yes, I think I get stressed because I have to schedule my whole summer around it, and at the same time I know I have to keep my grades up.” When we further inquired if just sports in general made her stressed, she answered, “lacrosse is a lot more stressful than volleyball here. It’s my main sport and it means a lot to me, so I really try and work hard during practices.”
Though sophomore year may seem to reside at a distance from college, 64.7% of sophomore survey participants stated that they “thought about college often.” In light of a more academically challenging year, sophomores may begin to care about their grades more and feel as though they matter more in the long run. One sophomore who responded to the survey, noted that it is important to “be productive about homework, papers, and projects, and try not to procrastinate.” Building healthy and sustainable habits, sophomore year is integral to success later on in high school, as another sophomore noted that “work ethic now will pay off later.”