Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

What Sophomore Parents Need to Know at Winter Break

Sophomores will likely be deciding on their major during the upcoming spring semester.  I hope that discussions with parents, professors, academic advisors and career counselors, coupled with exposure to divisionals have already helped to narrow down the options.  If you’d like to support your sophomore as he or she makes this important academic and life decision, take some time over the winter break to consider a few ideas together.

Major Choice

Many students are inclined toward the majors they believe will create the greatest volume of job opportunities when, in fact, Wake Forest has a national reputation as a liberal arts college and the majority of our recruiters are looking to hire our students with any major.  So when your student elects to major in English over Education, Economics over Business, or Theatre over Biology, you might respond by simply listening and posing a few open-ended questions:

  • “I don’t know a lot about that major, tell me about it.”
  • “What do you think you will like/dislike about it?”
  • “How can you gather more information about this major?”
  • “How might you gather more information about the types of jobs and careers that result from pursuing this major?”
  • “I heard that the career office has an online self-assessment, Focus 2, that can help you confirm majors that fit you best given your interests, values, skills and personality.  You might like to check it out.”

Internship Search

Sophomores can feel anxious about having to decide their major and also having to think about and work on their summer internship plans.  Though summer is an optimal time for an internship, there are also plenty of spring internship opportunities near Wake Forest. If your student is interested, have them stop by the career office or log-on to DeaconSource to learn about some of these opportunities.

“What is the value of an internship?” College begins that time when your student should start to connect with the working world.  An internship gives students the chance to experiment with different job functions and skills and experience each function firsthand.  Support your student as they try something new.  Strongly encourage them not to return to their old high school job or to a job that does not help them learn about new environments, new skills or new relationships (e.g. life guard, sports team coach, camp counselor).  If they must, encourage them to also volunteer, do short-term projects or job shadow in another field.

There are many employers who actually consider hiring their entry-level employees directly from their internship pool. The earlier your student begins to stretch beyond their comfort zone, the stronger their foundation of knowledge will be – about themselves and about the working world. As they discover their interests and passions and how those interests and passions fit into the world of work they open doors to opportunities they never dreamed possible.  People learn best through experience, so encourage and facilitate new and varying experiences to enable your student to grow and learn.

Connect with Adult Friends

Over the winter break introduce your student to some friends and family members who will share information about different types of organizations, careers and jobs.  Coach your student on how to conduct an informational interview and allow them to develop their personal information gathering style with familiar and friendly adults.

Use the Career Office

Upon returning to campus, your student will benefit from a one-on-one appointment with a Career Counselor where ideas and plans can be shared, evaluated and developed.  Our counselors have access to many tools, such as the Focus2 assessment, which students can take online in brief 15 minute modules to identify career options that align with their interests, values, skills and personality.  Reassure your student that he or she does not need to “have it all figured out” when it comes to their career path. Most students do not.  Our counselors have advised and assisted thousands of Wake Forest students with all different majors, backgrounds, interests and plans and they look forward to working with your student, too.

If they haven’t already done so, students should attend a DeaconSource Registration meeting to activate their DeaconSource account.  DeaconSource is the only Wake Forest-specific internship and job posting site and keeps students informed about internship and job opportunities and educational events.  Over 51% of all sophomores are already registered.

All of these ideas and interactions will enable your student to make a confident selection of first, a college major and second, an internship opportunity.

Category: Tips for Parents