Colorado College, Connecticut College, St. Lawrence University, and Skidmore College carried out a three-year collaborative study of sophomore engagement with liberal learning. We piloted sophomore dialogue and advising initiatives and collected quantitative and qualitative data on sophomore engagement. We shared results during working group meetings, conference presentations, and campus site visits, and we drew from the insights of academic consultants with expertise in advising and research in higher education (see acknowledgements for the names of the consultants). This report summarizes our advising initiatives and outlinesrecommendations for enhancing academic advising programs for sophomores at small liberal arts colleges.
Our project explored sophomore experiences at four institutions with similar characteristics. We are private and selective undergraduate institutions with small student populations (1,900-2,400 students), similar student/faculty ratios (9:1-11:1), and high retention rates. Our colleges have established first-year programs, and we expect students to explore a liberal arts curriculum before declaring a major by the end of the second year. The first-year programs have been successful in enhancing student engagement and achievement; but for many students, the impact of these programs has not carried through to the second year. As a result, we identified a growing need to enhance the second-year experiences of our students.