Starting this semester, Wharton sophomores can expect to receive emails about Wharton-themed prizes and activities along with updates on their "Guide to Personal Success," or GPS.
These electronic messages are a new initiative under the Wharton Sophomore Experience. The program launched five years ago and aims to guide sophomores in five areas: academics, career planning, networking, leadership skills and mental and physical wellness, the last of which became a new focus this year.
Wharton Director of Student Life Lee Kramer said the program draws on older initiatives and reworks them into an incentive program. Students can collect “points” by attending events, such as meeting with academic and peer advisors, attending information sessions about study abroad opportunities and participating in various campus health workshops such as a stress reduction workshop.
Each Wharton sophomore has a Guide to Personal Success that tracks their activities and accomplishments online. With enough activities completed, sophomores can earn a number of prizes such as Wharton-branded travel tumblers, phone wallets and padfolios. Students who complete more than 12 activities earn the top prize of Wharton business cards and an invitation to a reception with Wharton alumni.
Kramer called the program “successful,” citing the fact that since its inception, the program has had a 90-95 percent participation rate, which counts all students who have attended at least one event. Ten percent of past sophomores have accomplished at least 12 activities.
Wharton sophomores Ashlee Fong and Jia Wei Teo attended the Sophomore Experience kick-off event late last month, where attendees received free Wharton-branded shirts.
Fong said she appreciated the program’s mission to make sophomores “more aware and more involved” and that she would consider completing over 12 events if she could make the time.
Teo said was surprised to hear that the program is five years old.
“I don’t think any upperclassmen mentioned it,” she said. “Most of my friends thought it was new as well.”
Teo also said that she would have already known about most of the events featured in the program because of her subscriptions to various listservs, particularly the Career Services listserv.
College and Wharton junior Somina Lee said the Wharton Sophomore Experience was not very relevant to her and her peers last year. She said she had “heard [the name] thrown around” occasionally and associated it most closely with activities organized by Career Services.
She added that as a sophomore, she utilized resources such as Penn Abroad 101 and the Wharton Undergraduate Leadership Forum without knowing that they were part of the Wharton Sophomore Experience.
Kramer said that the Wharton Sophomore Experience was designed to help combat the “sophomore slump.”
“A lot of universities put a lot of time and effort into freshmen, onboarding them, getting them acclimated to campus. Juniors and seniors have a lot of attention … sophomores are kind of the class that’s left behind,” he said. “In Wharton in particular, it’s one of the hardest years, because they’re taking core classes. So academically, it’s rigorous.”
Lee agreed that being a sophomore, especially in Wharton, is challenging.
“I felt like I wasn’t allowed to make as many mistakes because I ‘should’ know what I was doing. But I wasn’t an upperclassman, so it was a weird in-between,” she said.
Lee said that she felt pressure find a job or internship, especially since starting last year, on-campus recruiting occurs in the fall rather than in the spring.
Having experienced the “sophomore slump,” Lee said she recognizes the potential benefits in a program like the Wharton Sophomore Experience, but also sees a hidden danger.
“[The program] may enforce this culture where as a sophomore, you have to have a sophomore internship,” Lee said. “There’s a fine line between having those resources and ‘oh, everyone’s using them, so you have to do it.’”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.