Sophomore year has been very intense so far. Similar to high school, your first year is scary so administration, professors and staff coddle you a bit to ease the anxiety, but sophomore year they assume you know the drill and they treat you like it. Classes are harder, you suddenly become aware of the fact that you need to start making concentrated steps towards completion of your major (after you choose one if you haven't already), and your extracurriculars expect you to step up and help set the example for the new First-Year students. That said, it can be incredibly fun if you know how to balance your time well.
Fall 2012 Semester I definitely overloaded my schedule and suffered because of it. I took a very difficult course load including a graduate level music course and a 5 unit Mandarin course and went through the struggle of having to drop some classes for the first time. I was originally in 8 courses (granted, 4 of them were 1 unit courses but since they were music courses they take more than 1 unit's worth of time) and was rapidly losing my mind so I had to let two courses go which allowed me to finish the semester strong. However since I know I need to start preparing for law school, I realized that despite the fact that I'm doing very well, my GPA isn't strong enough for admission to top schools and it was a good reality check.
My extracurriculars are fantastic as always and I cannot stress the importance of them in maintaining sanity in a rigorous academic environment. Take the time to find some really fun things to do and build a community for yourself. My social group is made up of fellow student-activists with similar interests and it's really nice to have people to hang out with who care about the things you do. Also understand that work-study is a real time commitment so make sure you budget your time accordingly (something I wish I had started doing earlier last semester).
This semester looks to be off to a promising start and I'm taking a slightly less demanding course load so it's nice to have a bit more time to breathe. This semester I'm taking a Race, Technology & Health (a history seminar focusing on the health effects of mass-incarceration which is the area I want to write my thesis on), Elementary Mandarin II, Contemporary Civilizations (a philosophy course that's part of Columbia's Core Curriculum) Afro-Colombian jazz ensemble, a traditional jazz ensemble, and private bass instruction, and I'll let you know how it goes. I get to declare my major in African American Studies and Jazz Studies this semester so I'm very excited even though they're both very demanding. I also tutor for the Double Discovery Center (DDC), give campus tours through the Admissions Office's Undergraduate Recruitment Committee (URC), I'm also a member of their Multicultural Recruitment Committee (MRC), I'm on the Black History Month planning committee (BHM), and my favorite, I'm the secretary of CU Students Against Mass Incarceration (CU SAMI). I am an active member of the Black Student's Organization (BSO) and Sister Circle (a group for women of color across Columbia's undergraduate and graduate schools) and I do my work-study in the admissions office. This semester one of my goals is to experience more of the various art forms NYC has to offer with my mother who just moved to NYC to be closer to my sister and I.
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have admissions or student-life specific questions for Columbia, or if you're in the NYC area and want to hang out! I'll be here this summer as well and I'd be happy to meet with you.
Best of luck and I'll talk to you soon,