Guidelines for Sophomore Faculty Advising

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Table of Contents

General Goals of Sophomore Advising

The Yale College Dean’s Office is grateful to you for having volunteered to advise sophomores about academics and other matters.

Unlike freshman advisers, who are both faculty and staff members and may come from both Yale College and the professional schools, all sophomore advisers are faculty members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In many respects, the sophomore year continues the themes of freshman year. It is still a time to explore different subjects as students complete the distributional requirements for the sophomore year and earn the minimum of sixteen course credits required for promotion to junior standing. It is also a time when sophomores think seriously about what their major will be.

Some sophomores have already selected a major, particularly if they are in the sciences, mathematics, or engineering; some have one or two possible majors in mind; many are very uncertain about their choice of major and worry about making a decision. A typical sophomore wavers between indecision and decision.

A sophomore’s choice of major should conform to his or her intellectual interests and preferences.  These often become clear only after the students have looked into a variety of subjects and received advice from various members of the campus community. This is where you come in.  As a sophomore adviser, you can help your advisees by guiding them in a discussion of the subjects they studied during their freshman year or plan to study during their sophomore year. Along with leading your advisees in a moment of reflection, such a discussion will also give you a sense of what engages your advisees’ interest, what might make good use of their talents, and what satisfies them on an intellectual level.

We also encourage sophomores to discuss and analyze their academic programs as a whole with their sophomore adviser in order to ensure that their education has shape and coherence. We remind students that, toward the end of the sophomore year, they will be asked to choose a faculty member — perhaps their sophomore adviser — with whom to compile a tentative program of study for their junior and senior years, including courses both inside and outside the major.

How can you become the best possible sophomore adviser?  We encourage you to explore the links and sections below; to stay abreast of developments in your department and across campus; to familiarize yourself with the location of non-departmental resources (for jobs, internships, and study abroad, for example), so you’ll know where to refer your advisees for information outside your area of expertise; to peruse the Advising Resources for Freshmen and Sophomores Website (especially the “For Advisers” section); to read the occasional emails from the Director of Academic Advising and Special Programs; and to consider sophomore advising an important part of your broader commitment to teaching and learning.

In addition, you will find several sections below to help you with sophomore advising. 

Please send any comments or questions to Risa Sodi, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Academic Advising and Special Programs, or call her at 432-8427.


What Sophomores Expect from Their Advisers

In 2010, the Sophomore Class Council interviewed sophomores about the role of the sophomore faculty adviser and prepared the following list of important points, which are as valid today as they were then.

Thinking about the Term at Hand, Thinking about the Next Three Years

The role of the adviser is not just to look over a student’s schedule to make sure the course load looks appropriate and balanced. An adviser can play an important role in helping students think about how their courses for the term fit into their overall academic and career goals. Students also benefit from having their advisers tell them that it’s fine to take a chance or two on courses.

Drawing Up Tentative Schedules

One of the most helpful things an adviser can do is ask their sophomore advisees to draw up a tentative schedule of courses for the rest of their time at Yale. Students who are considering several majors may need to make several proposed schedules.

Mid-term and End-of-term Meetings

Although it may seem unnecessary to mention this, sophomore advisers can make a difference just by making sure their students know that they are available for discussion throughout the term. A one-line e-mail checking in on each advisee at midterm will matter greatly to students. An end-of-term discussion about what went right or wrong allows (requires) the students reflect on the year just gone by and prepare for the year ahead. By reflecting together with their advisers, advisees get the benefit of your considerable expertise and counsel to guide them.

Extracurricular Activities

Find out about your advisees’ extracurricular activities; don’t neglect to ask about them. What are they involved in? What do they spend most of their time doing? (If you’re unsure about how to approach non-academic topics, consult the conversation starters on the Advising Resources for Freshmen and Sophomores Website.)

Summer Plans

Ask your students about their summer plans. This isn’t idle chit-chat: students increasingly use their summers for jobs, internships, study abroad, and other experiences to help refine their thoughts about potential majors and post-graduation plans.  A sophomore adviser can help them think through their possibilities and ideas by asking questions such as

The best advisers are accessible and take the initiative to contact their advisees.

Helpful Details to Remember throughout the Year

Distributional Requirements for the Sophomore Year

Sophomores need 16 credits for promotion at the end of the fourth term of enrollment.

Also by the end of the fourth term of enrollment, students must have enrolled for

  • at least one course credit in each of the three disciplinary areas (Hu, Sc, and So)
  • at least one course credit in each of the three skills categories (WR, QR, and foreign language)

in order to be eligible for promotion to junior standing.

For details regarding the distributional requirement for the bachelor’s degree and the milestones students must meet along the way, see “Distributional Requirements” in the Yale College Programs of Study.

Credit/D/Fail Option

The Credit/D/Fail option was established to encourage experimentation and to promote diversity in students’ programs of study. Complete information about this option is contained in the Yale College Programs of Study. Some of the pertinent restrictions are the following:

  • Up to four of the thirty-six credits required for the bachelor’s degree may be earned under the Credit/D/Fail option
    • However, no course credit earned on a Credit/D/Fail basis may be applied toward satisfaction of the distributional requirements.
  • No more than two credits per term may be taken under the Credit/D/Fail option, and at least two credits must be taken for letter grades each term.
  • Students who have elected to take a course on the Credit/D/Fail option may reverse their decision and convert from Credit/D/Fail to a letter grade by filing a form in the residential college dean’s office no later than two weeks after midterm in the fall term and one week after the end of spring recess in the spring term.
    • ​Students may not convert from the letter grade option to the Credit/D/Fail option after turning in their completed course schedules at the end of shopping period.

Deadlines and Academic Options to Keep in Mind

Sophomores must obtain their academic adviser’s signatures on their final schedules before submitting them to the residential college dean’s office by the deadline indicated on the schedule.

• The election of a new course after this deadline is ordinarily not permitted. On advice of an instructor, however, a student may change course levels (e.g., from French 140 down to French 130 or up to French 150).

• Students may withdraw from a course at any time before the first day of reading period. If the withdrawal takes place by midterm, the student’s transcript will not show that the student was enrolled in the course. Withdrawal after midterm results in the assignment of a “w” (Withdrew) on the transcript.

• If students have questions about acceleration, refer them to the residential college dean.

Science, Engineering, and Premedical Students

Students interested in the sciences or engineering and students wishing to pursue a premedical program often need special advice. In these cases it is recommended that such students select the DUS of their intended major as their sophomore adviser.

Students interested in the health care professions will find helpful information and advice from the Health Professions Advisory Program.

International Experience Options

Yale actively encourages students to gain international experience in the course of their undergraduate careers and has many avenues for pursuing this option. From a junior term abroad, to a summer of language study or internship abroad, Yale has advising and financial resources to help students gain exposure to the broader world. The advisers in the Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs can help students define their interests and find programs or funding that will benefit them.

As a sophomore academic adviser, you can assist in this process by reminding sophomores that they should continue their foreign language study if at all possible to maximize the likelihood that such opportunities will be available to them. You might also remind them that courses taken abroad may be used to fulfill distributional and major requirements, so studying abroad need not mean a break in progress toward the degree.

Useful links

Sources of Information

There are various sources of information about majors and major requirements.

  • Primarily geared towards freshmen but also open to sophomores, the Academic Fair takes place on the Tuesday afternoon before the first day of fall-semester classes. Nearly all undergraduate majors and programs are represented by the DUS or other knowledgeable representatives who are available to answer questions about courses, prerequisites, and major requirements. Information is posted online and is distributed to freshmen with orientation materials.
  • Directors of Undergraduate Studies (DUSes) or their designated representatives regularly advise sophomores about the programs and majors in their departments. 
  • Yale College Programs of Study itself has information about all majors, their prerequisites, and their requirements.
  • Departmental publications. Most departments maintain websites, and some publish brochures with information about their majors. Departmental websites often have photos and short biographies of their faculty, with current research interests.
  • Departmental info sessions. A number of departmental meetings take place during the days leading up to the beginning of fall-term classes. Meetings for prospective majors and interested students continue throughout the year and are posted on the Sophomore Website’s Calendar and Departmental Info Sessions, Meetings and Placement page.
  • The online Yale Facebook includes students’ majors and can be sorted by major and college. Yale’s Facebook requires a netID login.
  • Residential college deans and heads of college can give you advice from their experience with Yale College and with students, as can your instructors.

Thoughts from Sophomores

“My adviser talks to me like a person. When I had her as a professor, she talked to me as a student, but now she talks to me as a person.”

“She is always very accessible. If I e-mail her, I get a response right away, and she’ll meet with me when I need her to.”

“Sophomore year…should be a time to explore different fields.” 

“I went to her with ideas, and she helped me narrow my class list, and then I went back later with my schedule. […] She advised me about individual professors and classes.”

“The DUSes are the best resources about majors. Meet with them.”

“She makes herself available. We’ll talk about things outside school.”

“My adviser insisted on discussing my schedule with me before he would sign it.”

“I thought I had my major decided when I began sophomore year, but after a few more courses, I changed my mind. I just went back to majoring in one of my other interests, even though I had taken only one course in it.”

“Get to know upperclassmen in your major or possible major. They can be an amazing resource.”

“I did not know what my major would be until after spring term started. I took Psychology 110 because I heard it was a good course, and the next thing I knew I found my major—psychology. I was stressed some until then, but for some of us it takes a bit longer to find a major.”