“Mega Sophs” Give Advice to Mini Sophs

“Sophomore year was a fever dream.” – Shivani Chirumamilla (24’)

I know it’s hard to believe, but this year’s juniors were just sophomores a few months ago, and this year’s incoming sophomores will become upperclassmen in a year. It’s the obvious, sure, but also serves as a  reminder that time flies by fast. For the new sophomores, there’s nothing to fear! Everyone has gone through the process of IMSA, and everyone (more or less) survived and likes it here.

So how was sophomore year, as described by our lovely new juniors? Was it scary, with our teachers chomping at students’ backpacks? Or was it the beloved Illinois Hogwarts? Look no further than a few opinions from some of our juniors!

When I interviewed many rising juniors (let’s call them Mega Sophs), they all mentioned the adjustment process to IMSA. Also? Homesickness. Our Junior at Large, head of the Big Sib Program, Yicole Ng (25’), said the biggest change at IMSA was living alone, but “found [herself] adjusting to living in a dorm pretty fast.” Similarly, Josie Kim (25’) noted that even though dorm-life was difficult at first, it taught many valuable lessons and skills about living alone and staying independent. For example, being at IMSA separated her from her parents, so a big focus of Josie’s first year at IMSA was managing her time and commitments. For you new sophomores (to continue with the name-scheme, let’s call you guys Mini Sophs), living on your own will be an adjustment, but if it’s anything like what the Mega Sophs experienced, then it won’t be a difficult transition. If you ever feel overwhelmed, be it from homesickness or workload, reach out to the upperclassmen and your Resident Counselors (RCs), staff that support student dorm life. As Kavin Venkat (25’) put it, when he was stressed as a Mini Soph, he turned to his RCs, teachers, and friends to have fun while maintaining good grades. Being at IMSA is an opportunity to experience independence, but it’s also the toughest adjustment. Know that there are resources and people available to guide you through your transition, and never fear to speak up for help when you need it.

We mentioned grades, so let’s talk more about IMSA’s academics. Trust me, and trust all the Mega Sophs when they say this – IMSA is not like your old school. Classes here run in mods (short for “modules”), with most classes taking one mod (50 minutes), but some taking 2 (called double mod classes). Passing periods are 5 minutes, and there’s 8 mods in a day. Not every mod needs to be filled, meaning that there could be 50 minute blocks of time where you don’t have class. You cannot go back into your dorm, but please take these 50 minute “free mods” to do your work! That’s because the pace of learning at IMSA is super fast, as Yicole observes, and even if you learned topics like Calculus or Chemistry at your old school, relearning it at IMSA could still be a struggle. As a Senior, I’ve observed that the intensity only increases as you move throughout the years, so be prepared!

Carolyn Zhang (25’), one of our debate captains, invites you to check out the extracurriculars at IMSA, noting that “a lot of stuff around here is very student organized.” Indeed, student organizations add vibrancy to the IMSA community. There are around 50-60 student-led organizations, managed under Student Council (StudCo) and the Campus Council of Equity (CCE). Most clubs are under the guidance of StudCo, as StudCo provides funding and support for these clubs’ events. These clubs, large or small, aim to intrigue and spark student interest in a variety of topics – general ones, like medicine, and niche ones, like crochet! Clubs under CCE guidance are completely different – they are culture clubs, each representing a different “cultural hub.” There’s ASIA (Asian Students In America), BSU (Black Student Union), Alma Latina, and ISA (Indian Student Association). Each culture club has its own show, an eye-catching display of student-led dances where you can immerse yourself in the celebration of diversity, while also cheering on your favorite people as they dance on stage! If you want to be as cool as Mega Sophs like Carolyn, Josie, and Yicole, then you should dance in these shows as well. The first show, Jalsa, hosted by ISA, will take place in late September, so look out for information about it soon.

For Nikhil Kodali (25’), culture shows are fascinating, but not the best part about IMSA. Clash of the Halls (COTH) is where it’s at. During COTH, hosted by Campus Activities Board (CAB), students are grouped by their 7 halls, and every hall unites to compete against the other halls for that ultimate IMSA pride. Everything from riddles to dance-offs to talent shows, COTH is the perfect place for people to express their talents, and go head to head with their new enemies from opposing halls. Nikhil noted that COTH always brought entire halls together to work together on projects such as decorating or dance choreography, and it can help tie you closer to those around you. His advice? Make friends with the people who live around you, they will be your closest bonds throughout your time here.

So, Mini Sophs, how do you feel? Anxious? Excited? Well whatever the feeling, know that the seniors and the Mega Sophs are here for you. Your first year is a crucial memory, and even seniors like me reminisce. The friends you make, the bonds you build, and the possibilities you create during sophomore year stick with you throughout the IMSA experience. Even seniors, like Shivani Chirumamilla (24’), are deeply influenced by their sophomore years. 

“Sophomore year set me up for success.” – Shivani Chirumamilla. 

Taking advantage of the independence, building on character and skills, and connecting with everyone around her set her up for multiple commitments during junior and senior year, such as the Red Cross club and prestigious research opportunities. She emphasized the friendliness of IMSA students, especially upperclassmen. Late-night talks with seniors, barging into wingmates’ doors, and chilling after night curfew – she associated sophomore year with a “happy feeling.” Shivani’s advice for you, Mini Sophs, is to find a balance between your academic, extracurricular, social, and personal life. Especially as an upperclassman, there’s more responsibility in our academics and extracurriculars, so setting up a good balance during your first year is critical to your future success.

I’m also a senior, but everyone covered my advice pretty well. If I could add anything else, there’s no need to feel scared or feel alone. You will find that everyone here is eager to meet you, befriend you, and support you. IMSA is fun and rigorous, so take that as you will, and adjust accordingly. One day, you will be writing your advice to another year of incoming sophomores. Mini Sophs, remember that you are supported and welcomed at IMSA – through all of the transitions, struggles, and fever dreams, you’ll come to love your sophomore year, just as all of the upperclassmen have.

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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