Fight the Slump and Take Back Sophomore Year

So, you're a sophomore. You survived the freshman transition, maybe even thrived, and now you're back for more. You know your way around campus, you know you can handle the workload and you've got a foundation of friends. Sophomore year should be no problem, right?

But then you hear the rumors. The warnings about the so-called “sophomore slump.” You're told that your motivation is going to drop, your grades will go down the toilet and you'll slip into the lull of your college career. But are the rumors true? Will the sophomore slump actually hit you like a bus as you continue through your second year?

Some sophomore students certainly think so.

“The sophomore slump is real. It’s a real thing. And it’s terrible,” says Lauren Joyce, CSOM ’18. Alexandria Barba, LSOE ’18, agrees that “it’s definitely a real thing.” This difficult period is perhaps made more difficult by the fact that students expect great things from sophomore year, now that they have supposedly figured out college living. In Joyce’s words, “I think in your mind you come in thinking you’re going to be better, but it’s actually like ten times harder.” The expectation that the troubles will have passed after the transitions of freshman year perhaps make the tough realities more difficult to deal with.

For these sophomore slumpers, several things combine to create such a lull. Barba points to the fact that she is “100% less motivated” than she was last year, while Joyce thinks her motivation has remained the same, but sophomore year brings with it “just a lot more stress.”

All sophomores that were interviewed pointed to their classes as contributors to the slump. Some classes simply require more work in a student's second year, while some are more hands-on than the lecture classes common in freshman year and others are overall more engaging, which encourages more effort and therefore takes up more time.

Beyond the sheer workload increase, many sophomores feel more general pressure. They are beyond the point of just figuring out college and surviving the transition, and now the bigger picture has set in. First, it’s crunch time to pick a major for the still-undecided students, an important and often stressful decision. Joyce alludes to the feeling that she’s running out of time under the “pressure of choosing a major, when you only have one more semester to take the classes you think you might enjoy.”

The students who have declared do not escape the bigger pressures of sophomore year, however. Allison Chowdhury, MCAS ’18, worries about the “bigger questions,” the questions about what you’re going to do with yourself. The feeling is much different from the previous year, because as a freshman “you’re excited about everything that’s going on,” but when the second year hits “you’re more within the real world.” Despite the fact that as a sophomore you’re still physically living in a college bubble, even these students start to feel the pressure to “find your place,” as Chowdhury puts it.

Shannon West / Gavel Media

Shannon West / Gavel Media

The sophomores are not alone in their perception of the legitimacy of the slump. Walsh Resident Director Erica Saviuk believes that “the sophomore slump is a thing at any college.” She refers to the slump as an “individualized” experience, in that everyone’s struggles are a little different.

She sees some students who are “struggling with their academics or are lacking motivation” but have fantastic social lives. On the flip side, she sees students who have “incredible direction in the classroom, but who struggle with friendships changing.” Thus, in her view, the sophomore slump is not strictly an academic phenomenon, nor is it always a social lull. It can be a combination of the two, or one or the other, or potentially neither.

Saviuk points out two main issues that she sees in the sophomore class at large. The first is a social issue. The transition from communal living to suite living marks a more solidified friend group, and she has discovered that students often don’t know how to step outside of that friend group with the new living arrangements. Students are “nervous to be seen as awkward” when they try approaching the people next door or sparking conversation with someone in the elevator.

A “fear of discomfort” really emerges in sophomore year, causing sophomores to be afraid to step outside of their comfort zone and try to interact with more people. Perhaps due to that fear of putting themselves out there, Saviuk finds that sophomores who haven’t found a solid group of friends often feel that it’s “too late to do so,” an opinion that she believes is prevalent but mistaken.

The students interviewed for the article had nothing but positive things to say about the social aspect (although it is entirely possible that students who weren’t interviewed would have plenty to say about the social slump). Generally, they talked about being more “involved” in their extracurricular activities, and Joyce pointed out that sophomores have “more connections” than freshman year, so there is more to do beyond the realm of academics. In fact, she points to this as a contributor to academic struggles because “part of the issue with staying motivated is that this year we have a lot more social things to do because we know a lot more people.”  

The other big issue Saviuk points out among sophomores is an academic one. She considers the “most challenging aspect” of sophomore year to be the increased workload, a fact that students emphatically agreed with. This is the part of the slump that the sophomores spoke about at length, believing it to be a quintessential part of the sophomore experience. Chowdhury says, “I mean, if you didn’t go to through the sophomore slump, do you really go to BC? No, you don’t.”

Image courtesy of Tumblr

Image courtesy of Tumblr

So what is there to do about this sophomore slump? Students indicated that to cope they drink more caffeine, take more naps and sleep less at night. Saviuk offers a more complete range of strategies to deal with difficulties if you encounter them. She suggests talking to your RA, RD, counselor or professor if you’re feeling a real lack of motivation. She insists that there are “numerous resources at your fingertips,” and they’ll know how to get you in touch with those resources.

She also suggests making time for things other than academics, like getting outside, making time for your passions and getting involved in fun extracurriculars so you have something you can look forward to. She also maintains the importance of social interactions, but suggests that you “add in, instead of adding on.” For instance, get a meal with someone since you already have that time carved out to be a study-free time, rather than carving out another study-free time to hang out with your friends.

Saviuk is especially emphatic about her final piece of advice: "change your scenery.” In her experience as an RD, many students who encounter the academic sophomore slump are studying in their room, which she strongly advises against. Because your room should be your “safe haven, your fun space” instead of your “jail cell,” she strongly encourages you to shake up your routine and study elsewhere.

So there you have it. If you’re experiencing the lulls of the sophomore slump you are most certainly not alone. If you’ve managed to avoid the slump, you are one of the lucky ones. Remember to take time for yourself and take advantage of your resources to take back your social life and academic career from the sophomore slump.

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