Sophomore Survival Guide

The countless hours spent on extracurricular activities, the sacrifices made to thrive academically, and the application procedure where you pitched yourself to the Admissions Committee have all paid off. Congratulations class of 2025, you’re in at IMSA! You’re ready to start a new chapter of your academic career, leaving behind childhood friends and teachers who have created scores of deep-rooted memories. While IMSA may have a positive or negative reputation depending on who you ask, it is still a life-changing experience that may require some adjustment. Fortunately, The Acronym is here to help make your transition to a suspiciously ominous new realm easier. Here are a few pointers that you may want to learn about

General Advice

Asking for help is something that IMSA supports in all of your classrooms. You were most likely the go-to person for support at your prior school, and while you can still help others at IMSA, you will also receive assistance. It’s not expected of you to grasp a subject completely the first time, and that’s fine — contrary to popular belief, there’s no shame in asking for help. Instead, it demonstrates a desire to learn and develop. IMSA offers many resources to assist students with essays, math homework, projects, and more. The Writing Center, peer tutoring, math study groups, and visiting teacher office hours are a few options available at IMSA.

One thing you should prepare for that seems so self-evident that it shouldn’t even be mentioned is that you are constantly in school. Expect to be inside the main building long after the school day is over because you live on campus. Some clubs and activities meet at 9 P.M. and end at 10 P.M. in the main building. You begin to realize that you are still in school even when you are not. It will take some time to acclimate, but I am convinced you will succeed.

On a side note, IMSA loves to use acronyms (get it) for everything, so get used to them.

The Books

For some of you, this is the most essential (and most interesting) category you will read. As a sophomore, you don’t have much scheduling flexibility; you attend the classes you’re assigned, with the exception that you may be able to add a few non-core courses if they fit into your schedule. Nonetheless, this does not imply that these classes will be dull. The course selection exposes you to multiple disciplines so that by the time you are junior or senior, you know your interests.

You may have heard of the gift from the academic deities that give us a day off from school every Wednesday. These days are colloquially known as I-Days but do not be deceived by the allure of having only four days of school; I-Days are not actual days for rest and gaming, although they may seem that way in the first three weeks of school. You will spend the majority of them completing homework, attending meetings if you are in any clubs, or attending study sessions. Do not view I-Days as a saving grace but a necessity needed to succeed.

Collaboration is crucial for IMSA’s success once again. Projects and assignments at IMSA are designed to encourage collaboration. It is possible, but not advised, to complete collaborative assignments alone.

The Clubs

IMSA offers a wide selection of extracurricular activities that appeal to people from all walks of life. Ranging from STEM teams like Science Olympiad to journalism clubs like Zeitgeist and The Acronym (which you should join), there’s something for everyone. Clubs are a terrific way to meet new people and develop interests outside school.

Clubs might also help you break out of your shell. You can make lifelong friends in these clubs, or you might discover an interest in something you’ve never considered before; the options are limitless.

The Mandatories

Remember how I mentioned I-Days aren’t as tempting as they appear? That’s because sophomores have a lot of mandatory events. Navigation and LEAD (yep, another acronym), held on I-Days, and Sophomore study hours are the three “mandatories” that occur most regularly for sophomores.

Navigation takes place (sort of) early in the morning so don’t expect to sleep in, and it lasts 1–2 hours. It’s primarily a tool to force yourself out of your room and get to know a few people early on. LEAD is held in the main building from 8:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. on Wednesdays. LEAD services provide leadership training that culminates in a presentation in front of a live audience.

Sophomore study hours are a mandated period on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 7:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M., during which sophomores must complete homework with doors unlocked. Your RC will determine how strict your study hours are, so you may be lucky and not have to go at all or unlucky and have to go every time.

Closing Remarks

My final message to you all is that you belong. At IMSA, there is a strong comparison culture that can cause alienation from peers and imposter syndrome. Keep in mind that a large committee read your application and found what you have to contribute to be valuable. Try to get the most out of your three years here and avoid losing yourself in this environment. Good luck!

About the Author

David Dickson
I am from a noble village in Illinois. You might not have heard of it, but it is called Chicago. I enjoy writing, listening to different types of music, computer games, and singing. Everywhere.

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