Dear Sophomore Self

Spring 2020

During this year’s SophoMORE Connections weekend, 90 alumni returned to campus to provide academic and career advice to second-year students. We asked some of the panelists: Looking back, what would you tell your sophomore self? 

Illustrations by Rebecca Clarke

Live in the moment as much as you speculate on the future. Follow those things that energize you. Nurture those interests that you thought didn’t fit the image of an All-Patriot League football player. Do not be afraid to dive deeply into your curiosities. Discovery lies in the depths. Although the image may not seem clear, keep painting so the world may see the masterpiece you are. Finish what you start.

— Uzoma Idah ’10, an art and art history major, is now working at Y.A. Studio in San Francisco, designing architecture.

Use your time at Colgate to explore your interests and gain an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. After graduation, it may take a couple of jobs to figure out the right fit, and that’s OK. Understanding what you don’t like about a job or a work environment is still a valuable experience that can help you navigate future opportunities. If you continue to follow your interests, work hard, and make connections, you will find an exciting and fulfilling career.

— Courtney Lane ’00, an environmental geography major, is now a senior
associate at Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Mass.

Learn how to advocate for yourself and ask for what you need. Build up the resolve to admit when you need help at work and the confidence to ask for a raise or promotion. This takes time, but the earlier you can learn how to speak up and ask for what you want or need, the better positioned you’ll be to advance and find happiness not only at work but also in other aspects of life. Feeling confident and self-assured when having these tough conversations is a skill you can start practicing today. 

— Natalie Sportelli ’15, an English literature major with a creative writing emphasis, is now content and brand manager for Lerer Hippeau in New York City.

There are many acceptable paths into a medical career. It’s important to seek out academic, extracurricular, and post-graduate opportunities that interest you and provide you with meaningful growth and experience. These experiences can shape your future and make you a unique candidate for schools and employers. Keep an open mind about the types of medical careers that exist and don’t lock yourself into one track — you will find career niches you never knew existed. Reach out to people with experience and ask them the hard questions about their lives and careers. Seek out positive mentors and ignore naysayers. Colgate alumni, especially, are an incomparable resource for advice and will be happy to help you.  

S. Tyler Constantine ’04, a philosophy major, is now an emergency physician at a level 1 trauma center and emergency medicine residency program in Charlotte, N.C.

In the short term: Don’t worry about what major to choose. Choose a subject that you really like, not what you think employers want to see, and focus on building important practical skills. Most important is communication. Being able to deliver concise, on-point narratives in both written and oral format is a skill that will serve you well for your whole career. For the long term: You will likely have many jobs during your career; some you’ll like and some you won’t.  Go for what you love to do, understanding that the path is long, and there are many twists and turns. You’ll probably learn more from your defeats than from your triumphs. That long-term advice is applicable even now. Take that notoriously tough class. I bet you’ll find it fascinating, and even if you get a lower grade than you’re used to, the challenge — and maybe the setback — will teach you more than you’d expect.

— Steve Bennett ’90, a history major, is now senior vice president for academic operations at Syracuse University.