Every fall various higher ed experts express concern about what they call “sophomore slump.” But Is there really a sophomore slump? What does it look like? What can a second year student with this affliction do about it?
TWO TYPES OF SLUMP
Across the country, about four out of five students who enter a four-year public university as freshmen return to that same university for sophomore year. (Source: College Board website here.) Many of those who do not return have good reasons, but a smaller number are feeling not fully engaged in the college experience---sort of a pre-sophomore slump.
If you are reading this message, then you are one of the four (out of five) students who came back for sophomore year! And we are glad you did. However, you are now potentially subject to another more common form of sophomore slump, which can look like this:
• Frequent bathroom trips
• Looking green around the gills
Oh NO! That is not soph slump; that is food poisoning!
Let’s get serious here. The symptoms of soph slump are:
• Lack of motivation due to the fact that college is no longer novel and there are still years of it to get through
• Worry about how long one can be “undecided” about major and career
• Worry that the major and career you thought you had chosen are not fitting all that well
• Inability to sustain a fever pitch of intensity about attending class, completing projects, studying faithfully, and getting top grades
• Feeling that the friends you made freshman year are now too sophomoric (get that—sophomoric?) and wishing you had a chance to bond with some other people
NEWS FLASH FROM THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE
Not everyone feels the slumpish symptoms and those who do can eventually transform the slump into a SURGE.
SIX COMMON SENSE SUGGESTIONS FOR SLUMPING SOPHS
1. Take a deep breath—several if you need to—and recognize that it is OK to feel slumpy as long as you do not wallow in it and let it last long.
2. Introduce some new elements into your routine. Take a course outside your comfort zone (Arabic? Dance? Astronomy?). Get a new on-campus job. Join a new campus organization (intramurals, the Tea Empire, Student Events Board, musical theater group, etc.).
3. Stop worrying about your lack of major or choice of wrong major and take action to explore alternatives. Visit the Career Center, Advising office (specialists in the undecided and transitional), and talk to friends about their majors. Read the websites of departments with majors of interest. You can use an internship to try ideas on for size (see #5 below).
4. Deliberately plan activities with an expanded or different set of friends. Do not get locked into eating dinner with your suitemates every night. Do not go home every weekend to hang out with your high school friends. Vary your pattern and look for ways to connect with new people.
5. Start planning your internship for next summer and your study abroad for junior year (can be as short as a month or as long as an academic year). Study abroad takes a lot of planning, but it is fun planning for the most part.
6. If your soph slump hangs on and you start to feel depressed, do not hesitate to talk to your RA, CD, or a professional at the University counseling center.
ADVANTAGES OF BEING A SOPHOMORE (or 2nd year student)
Focus on these pluses:
• You don’t have to be a freshman (1st year student) ever again!
• You know your way around the campus and have some friends here.
• You have at least 30 academic credits earned (by definition). :)
• You still have time to change your mind about major, concentration, what you want to be when you grow up, and more.
• You do not yet have the pressure of difficult upper level classes, MCATs, GREs, capstone projects, choosing a graduate school, approaching professors for letters of recommendation, job interviews, and more.
In fact, if you steer clear of the slump (or rise above it), your second year in college can be a kind of golden period of sophomore surge in which you are no longer a newbie but not yet on your way out into the cold cruel world either. You can participate fully in college life, homing in on what your true interests are. Doesn’t that sound good?
PAUSE FOR FOOTNOTE:
Thanks to Rodin College House (a dorm) at the University of Pennsylvania for the term “sophomore surge” and the graphic that accompanies this article. Those guys and gals are “trumping the slump” with camping trips, free snacks, sock attack tournaments, special soph seminars, and a whopping dose of sophomore pride! Read more about it here.
Here is a recent article about the slump in the New York Times:
“The Sophomore Slump” by Samantha Stainburn, Nov 1, 2013
Definition of “sophomore slump” in the Urban Dictionary on line, emphasizing that musicians have a 2nd album slump
A practical article excerpted from Campus Confidential: A Complete Guide to the College Experience by Students for Students by John H. Mills (Wiley and Sons) is “Avoiding the Sophomore Slump.” Among other things, this article recommends warding off the slump by falling in love!
EXTRA CREDIT DISCUSSION QUESTION
Sophomores, and former sophomores, have you experienced the slump? If so, did you find ways to de-slump? Share your ideas in the comments section below!