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Evelyn Doskoch / The Daily Princetonian

This week, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS) and the Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC) hosted the first-ever SophCon — a “virtual orientation program for rising sophomores.”

The program took place from Monday, May 4, to Wednesday, May 6, through a series of three one-hour webinars that discussed Academic Advising and Career Exploration, Mental Wellness, Housing and Dining, and Residential Colleges. Originally designed as a one-day event to occur on Tuesday, May 5, the event was then converted to a virtual one.

Sandra Chen ’23 explained that she attended the May 4 webinar on academic and career exploration, which was hosted by Dr. Cecily Swanson, Director of Studies for Mathey College, and Kimberly Betz, Director of the Center for Career Development.

Some of the topics discussed in the webinar were academic advising, degree progress, choosing a major, summer courses, and internship recruitment opportunities.

“I found the major exploration part to be the most helpful for me personally, as I am still undecided about my major and wanted to hear about ways to plan for sophomore year,” Chen wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “There was also a Q&A session, which was good for addressing specific student concerns, especially around summer classes given the current situation.”

Andrew Tran ’23 agreed, stating that the Q&A segment “was able to answer a decent amount of questions.”

One student anonymously asked Betz through the webinar’s Q&A function about considering taking a gap year due to a potential “lack of opportunities” in the fall. “Is this concern worth entertaining?” the student typed.

“One of the things that we’ve been hearing from employers is that in terms of their hiring right now, they’re not thinking of changing their recruiting strategies for the coming year,” Betz said. She explained that, having worked through the 2008 financial crisis, employers have learned that they do not want to “dry up their pipeline of candidates.”

Her colleague Charles Jennings, Senior Associate Director of the Center for Career Development, had a similar response.

“We did a poll of our employer partners, just to see what route they were taking in regard to internships, as well as their fall recruiting schedules, and a large majority of them said that they were still looking to come and recruit with us in the fall,” Jennings said. “I wouldn’t necessarily look at taking a year off, but [instead] taking a year to see how you can reflect and enhance your skills, so that way you can still be a viable candidate for the opportunities that are presented from our employer partners.”

The second webinar, on Tuesday, May 5, was hosted by Dr. Calvin Chin, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services. Chin spoke about mental health and wellness, emphasizing self compassion, flexibility, values, and self-care, and held a breakout room activity in which students were asked to participate in a few minutes of small group discussion.

This webinar was the only one of the three to have a publicly viewable participants list during the live event. At its peak, there were 25 participants, including administrators. The first-year class includes 1,343 students.

Annette Lee ’23 told the ‘Prince’ that she attended the Tuesday webinar.

“It was really good that they stressed that self-compassion is so necessary in these times and we shouldn’t be pressuring ourselves to be the same level of ‘functional’ as we normally are,” Lee wrote in an email, “because we’re literally going through a PANDEMIC right now and all.”

The third webinar took place on Wednesday, May 6, and featured Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Bryant Blount and Wilson Director of Student Life Garrett Meggs. The webinar focused on sophomore options for dining, housing, and involvement in residential college life.

“The residential college/dining session didn’t have too much info, in my opinion,” Tran reflected, “but it did give a nice timeline overview of the dining options [and] opportunities to learn about them.”

In general, Tran thought that given the short timeframe of the orientation event, the webinars were “at least a good exposure for what’s to come sophomore year.”

Juan Rohrer ’23 told the ‘Prince’ that while he wasn’t able to attend the entire SophCon event, he found the program beneficial.

“They gave some good guidance, and a lot of people asked questions similar to mine, so it kind of grounded the idea that you’re not alone amidst this whole pandemic thing,” Rohrer wrote. “It was nice to hear from Princeton people again.”

Recordings of the three webinars can be found on the Pathways to Princeton website.

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