Sophomore Year Experience (SYE)

Elizabethtown created the SYE to tackle the sense of drift—or “sophomore slump”1—reported by sophomores nationwide. The SYE is designed to ease the transition from the structured programs of the first year to the more independent programs, like internships and research experiences, associated with the junior and senior years.

There are only a handful of colleges and universities that have a Sophomore Experience Program, and none does as good of a job as Elizabethtown does at integrating the First-Year Experience Program and the Sophomore Experience Program.

1 Sophomore Slump

soph•o•more slump - Noun

a feeling of being caught between directions and not knowing which path to choose

Download the Compass - Sophomore Year Academic Advising Handbook

Goals of the Sophomore Experience

Traditions and Communal Experiences

Provide ritual experiences and traditions to mark the beginning and end of the sophomore year, and to highlight to sophomores the significance of the sophomore year in their academic, professional, and vocational development.

Integrate CORE learning with Majors/Minors

Promote curricular pathways that integrate majors and minors with the students’ Core curriculum, and in particular the Signature Learning Experiences of the Real World Learning program.

Explore Vocation and Life Purpose

To help each student determine his or her distinct path in terms of career goals, life aspirations, and the practical steps (such as engaging in undergraduate research, internships, and study abroad) that will render those objectives achievable. 

Sophomore Events:

The Sophomore Year Experience begins with the Sophomore Class Opening Dinner, a formal occasion to bring sophomores together as a group, celebrate the start of the academic year, and initiate conversations about vocation. The Opening Dinner is held every September in the KAV. In the summer each rising sophomore will receive an invitation in the mail. Please look for the invitation at your home address and send the response card promptly.

In 2016, 95 percent of student attendees said that the dinner provided a positive "kick-off" to their sophomore year, and 91 percent indicated that the event helped them recognize the importance of the sophomore year for their academic and personal development. Ninety percent of students said that the keynote address and/or after-dinner discussions helped them begin and/or continue exploring questions of vocation and life purpose. When asked to identify their main goals for the sophomore year, students indicated particular interest in pursuing internships and study abroad opportunities; forging deeper mentoring relationships with faculty and staff; deciding on majors, second majors, and minors; improving academic success; figuring out who they want to be; and getting more involved in clubs/activities.

Check out what students had to say about the event:

This was a great event to connect with friends and meet new students as well as new faculty.

Showed me how important this year is and can be.

Keynote was personal and effective.

I am walking away very inspired and ready to dive into this year.

For more information about the Opening Dinner, please contact Professor Brian Newsome.


Are you thinking of adding a minor, a second major, or perhaps switching majors? Come check out all of your opportunities, as well as programming available through Study Abroad, BCA, Career Services, Community and Civic Engagement, Prestigious Scholarships, the Purposeful Life Work Program, and the Honors Program.

For more information, please contact Professor Brian Newsome.

majors and minors fair

In January 2016, the SYE featured a Sophomore Retreat where participants learned more about themselves, their talents and strengths; what truly matters to them and why it matters; and their own unique sense of purpose. The retreat was held in the Susquehanna Room, and students enjoyed a delicious meal with mentors like Dr. Kurt DeGoede and the Rev. Dr. Tracy Wenger Sadd.

In February 2017, the Sophomore Retreat will be held at Cameron Estate, a beautiful location just fifteen minutes from campus.

After attending the Retreat during her sophomore year, Irene Snyder was inspired to make a difference in the lives of others. Irene is a member of the Class of 2017 and is a Mass Communications major and Sociology minor as well as the programming director of ECTV-40. Irene partnered with the Carter Bowman Foundation to create a toy drive that provided games for child and teen cancer patients. Instead of just toys in general, the drive included board games, “to go” games, and card games that children can play with nurses, visitors, friends, and family. The toy drive was a huge success and was able to bring a little bit of fun to those going through a rough time!

For more information, please contact the Chaplain's Office.


group game

Selection criteria for Emergent Scholars are as follows: Emergent Scholars have attained at least a 3.75 cumulative grade point average at the end of their first three semesters. Qualified students are full-time students who have not previously attended another college or university for full-time study and have earned at least forty-two credits in three consecutive semesters as a student at Elizabethtown College or one of its affiliated programs.

The SVPAA hosts an annual luncheon to recognize Emergent Scholars and their invited mentors. The most recent luncheon was held in the KAV on March 12, 2017.

emergent scholars group

The Sophomore Year Experience closes with a Dessert Reception. You'll get to come together as a group once more, this time to celebrate the accomplishments of the sophomore year and to look ahead to the junior and senior years.

In April 2016 the Sophomore Class enjoyed senior Gates Failing's reflections on his college career, including his study abroad experience in The Gambia, his summertime research project at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and his senior honors thesis supervised by Dr. Debra Wohl. Each of those experiences readied Gates for his successful Fulbright application. In 2016-2017 Gates is studying traditional medicine in Malawi. At the Dessert Reception, Gates shared his thoughts on how sophomores can make the most of their last two years in college, both personally and professionally.

In April 2015 the Sophomore Class enjoyed Provost Susan Traverso's keynote address on her experiences in the Peace Corps. Attendees ended the evening by writing words of advice to Elizabethtown's rising sophomores and then "signing" their notes with handprints. This creation was prominently displayed in September 2015 at the Sophomore Year Opening Dinner for the Class of 2018.

For more information, please contact Prof. Brian Newsome.

Sophomore Class Desert Reception

Signing with handprints

Mentoring Programs:

Blue Jay Vics are seniors who are available to mentor sophomores. Keeping with the Blue Jay theme, when birds fly in a V formation they take turns leading the flock as the lead bird. The British Royal Air Force flies in the same V formation and the lead plane, or lead bird, or in our case lead Blue Jays are called "Vics".

Blue Jay Vics mentor sophomores as they discern a major, a minor, or a concentration in a major, and in selecting from among the five Signature Learning Experiences required for graduation.  If you're interested in studying abroad, for example, then you will be paired with a student who has studied abroad so you can learn more about it from a student perspective.

Reflections from 2015-2016 mentees:

It has made me realize that my concerns and questions are always answered and appreciated. Any concern that I have will be . . . [of] concern to another person. I have realized that Elizabethtown College really is a community. We are all willing to share our experience and lend a hand to one another.

It has helped me feel more comfortable in my major and with the activities and events offered on campus. In my first year, I entered the college intending to major in Engineering. I worked with Professor Benowitz on discerning a new major. In the second semester of my first year, I changed my major to Economics. As part of working with Professor Benowitz and my Blue Jay Vic, I have added a minor in Political Science.

It gave me another great resource I would turn to whenever I need help. Working with an older student in my major was nice.



Blue Jay Vics

Purposeful Life Work mentors will encourage students to understand the importance of reflection on vocation and purposeful life work for intentional decision-making during their Elizabethtown career and beyond.

For more information, please visit Purposeful Life Work webpage.

The Infotecs are librarians who will mentor you and work with you on research projects on an individual basis.

For more information, please contact Instruction and Outreach Librarian Joshua Cohen.


Front row, left to right: Amy Magee and Susan Krall Back row, left to right: Joshua Cohen, Sylvia Morra, Sarah Penniman, and Rachel Grove Rohrbaugh.