When an atom only contains a single electron, its orbital energies depend only on the principle quantum numbers: a 2s orbital would be degenerate with a 2p orbital. However, this degeneracy is broken when an atom has more than one electron. This is due to the fact that the attractive nuclear force any electron feels is shielded by the other electrons. s-orbitals tend to be closer to the nucleus than p-orbitals and don’t get as much shielding, and hence become lower in energy. This process of breaking degeneracies within a shell is known as splitting. In general s orbitals become lowest in energy, followed by p orbitals, d orbitals, and so forth.