From One Student to Another: How to Navigate Your Second Year of College

As my third semester wraps up, I am increasingly more aware that the so-called adulthood waiting for me after graduation is quickly approaching. And yes, maybe I do have a flair for the dramatics since I’m only halfway through my second year of college, but once you pass the stage where you’re a bright-eyed first-year student with the belief that time is on your side, you’ll realize that things are moving much too quickly for anyone’s taste. I am definitely past the college-is-so-cool phase and moving towards the college-years-please-slow-down phase.

Being on the cusp of entering the second half of this midpoint in my college career has revealed at least two things: 1) No matter how much I feel as though I just enrolled, I am no longer a freshman, and I actually need to buckle down and make decisions for my future, and 2) I have no idea what I’m doing, but it’s okay because we can all struggle together.

This time in my life is full of contradictions, and it might be the same for you. This is where confusion and overwhelming thoughts begin to take root. On the one hand, it’s difficult to believe this is only my third semester — it feels like I’ve been running around campus for years on end. On the other hand, I am clutching my remaining time with an iron-like grip because I can’t imagine jumping into the “real world.” Because the second year of college is a turning point in many ways, I wanted to hash out how to navigate through it all.

Being realistic doesn’t mean giving up your happiness.

If your major is undecided, your second year of college is usually about the time when your school requires you to pick one even if you change your mind later. Although choosing a major is not binding (in most cases), it can be nerve-wracking to make a concrete decision that might affect the path of your career and life. Since this is also the halfway point, this means you’re going to need to make sure you’re on track to graduate. The first year of college is a great opportunity to try out classes from several majors and find what truly suits you, but during your second year and beyond, taking classes to fulfill your major becomes more of a reality. However, don’t let the pressure to be on track and pursue a major stop you from trying that class you’ve been wanting to add to your schedule. Always pursue your interests because this is the time to take stock of what calls your name and what doesn’t.

Don’t neglect your mental and physical health.

The struggle to make some decisions about your education and career while also attempting to be present in the current moment can really take a toll on your body. It’s a constant back-and-forth tug of war that may leave you feeling overwhelmed and, frankly, just plain exhausted. For me, there are some days where I end up spending hours researching courses to take or internships to apply for, and all it does is leave me feeling drained. I’m not saying you shouldn’t dedicate time to preparing for your future; If anything, I’m saying you totally should, but there are healthier ways to go about the planning process. For example, I don’t recommend scouring the internet for hours on end without an agenda. Choose one or two things you want to accomplish that day instead of taking on everything at once. In the end, your mental and physical health should be top priority no matter what.

Kayla Lane, a third-year student and fellow Her Campus UFL member, understands sophomore year is a stressful time for students but said, “The one thing that I wish I paid attention to was my physical and mental health.”

So instead of drowning yourself in the stress of the situation, take a step back and make a clear plan of your goals and dreams. Like Kayla said, “Yes, it is time to crack down, but your health is always most important.”

Be selective with your involvement, and dedicate time to what truly interests you.

College is full of fresh experiences, and when you first enrolled, you may have tried out quite a few organizations. You may have quickly realized you cannot possibly be at three meetings on the same night. During your first couple of semesters, I recommend peeking into meetings of organizations that interest you, but when your second year comes around, it’s best to pick out the special organizations that speak to you.

SarahIlana Rosner, another third-year student and Her Campus UFL member, definitely knows a thing or two about involvement on campus. She understands that people join “everything under the sun their freshmen year because they don’t know what to do” but encourages second-year students to focus on joining something they’re interested in.

You’ll soon learn that it’s best to not be involved in everything but rather be involved in a couple things that will truly add value to your time on campus. For me, it quickly became apparent that organizations such as Her Campus UFL and UF’s Women’s Student Association are my slices of home-away-from-home and are where I have forged many authentic friendships. SarahIlana put it best when she said, “This is the year to figure out where your passion lies and weed out things that don’t have a profound impact on you.”

Reach out to peers and family for advice.

In the mess of being in between the beginning and end of your college career, you might be experiencing a lack of motivation and unease about the decisions you have to make. I totally understand. Some days I can’t help but call my family more than three times a day simply because talking with them refocuses my mind, so I can see things with a clearer perspective. When times are rough, reach out to your peers and family. Oftentimes what happens is that we fall into a black hole of feeling alone, but a quick chat can remedy that in no time.

Create a map of things you want to do and accomplish.

A major part of your second year of college is taking the time to plan. Like I mentioned before, spending hours aimlessly scrolling through web page after web page is not a productive use of time, but you can carve out some time when you’re not busy — I know, when aren’t you busy? — to dedicate to a certain goal. For example, I like to look into further education after my four years of undergrad. I give myself some undivided time to research possible graduate programs I would be interested in pursuing. I am not jumping from task to task but rather spending time trying to figure out one thing at a time. I think this is an especially important tactic to use because it can feel as though every decision you have to make is knocking at the door and demanding attention. This way you are not frying your brain and actually being productive with your time.

So, as a second-year student myself, I am still figuring everything out, whether that be about my major or plans after graduation. But that is part of the process. We should embrace the now while having a forward-facing perspective, and it is only by listening to ourselves that we will understand how to navigate this confusing and sometimes (or always) intimidating period in our lives.