Sophomore year has long been associated with the notion of the “sophomore slump.”
While not all high school and college sophomores will experience this notorious slump, taking a look at why this malaise occurs in the first place will shed some light on the unique characteristics and challenges of sophomore year. These tips will help you stay on track during high school, and stay motivated during college!
What is the Sophomore Slump?
Slumpitis Sophomorus is associated with low energy, lack of motivation, and reduced interest in school. Typical contributing factors include:
- The novelty of freshman year has worn off.
- Classwork seems less interesting, and more burdensome.
- There is heightened pressure to choose the right sophomore classes and perform well on standardized tests.
- Graduation and college seem impossibly far off in the future.
A sophomore slump may manifest itself in any number of symptoms, including lower grades, withdrawal from social activities and/or extracurriculars, less participation in family activities, exhaustion, oversleeping, mood swings, changes in appetite/weight, and reduced interest in things that you used to enjoy.
Some say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You can find suggestions for recovering from a sophomore slump from U.S. News & World Report here. Or better yet, read on and we’ll help you spot the triggers for a slump early on so that you can avoid this beatable syndrome in the first place. There is no reason why your sophomore year cannot be among the best years of your high school or college experience.
What Does “Sophomore” Mean?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “sophomore” originated in 17th Century English universities and was subsequently adopted by American schools. The word is a concatenation of the Greek “sophist?s” (learning; wisdom) and “m?ros” (foolish). By direct translation, sophomore means “wise fool.”
While this definition seems rather negative, consider that the Greek derivation goes back to the notion that a sophomore is a “sophist” (one who seeks knowledge) who is enrolled in school to acquire new knowledge. The underlying presumption here is that once you complete your education, you will have successfully matriculated from being a wise fool to being a wise graduate.
The Year the Rubber Hits the Road
Sophomore year is when you begin to actively feel the pressure of being a high school or college student, without the buzz and novelty of freshman year.
In high school, you become increasingly aware that how you perform in your sophomore year classes will have a direct impact on your college options. This includes the pressure to take more rigorous courses, including honors sections and A.P. courses. You also have to confront the juggernaut of standardized testing as you choose whether to take the SAT or the ACT. (For advice on how you can begin preparing for the SAT as a sophomore, check out this article from Empowerly.)
In college, you are expected to select your major by the end of your sophomore year. For most students, declaring your major will be the biggest decision you will make in college. You have to be deliberate about choosing the right mix of sophomore-year classes to support your major. Virtually every major includes prerequisite classes, and you’ll want to make sure that you complete these courses by sophomore year so that you can subsequently enroll in the higher-level courses within your major.
In both high school and college, you should commit to your extracurricular activities during sophomore year. While freshman year is a time to experiment (for example, maybe you’d like to try auditioning for your first school play), by sophomore year you should be formalizing your main club/sport/activity so that you can work up to a position of leadership by senior year. (High schoolers should check out Empowerly’s guide to extracurriculars.)
Summer – More Than Fun in the Sun
By sophomore year, you also should be using your summers productively. For high schoolers, this means that you should be pursuing work experience or internships. (To get an edge on the internship process, take a look at Empowerly’s Startup Internship Program.)
As a sophomore in college, you will face even greater pressure to pursue the right work and internships (during your summers, and sometimes during the school year). Most college students will already need to have a job (or two) to cover tuition and expenses. By sophomore year, you will face the added challenge of having to land the right types of jobs and internships to help you build out your C.V. These job and internship experiences will have a direct bearing on your employment prospects after graduation.
Colleges have long been aware of the sophomore slump because they typically lose a certain percentage of second-year students to transfers and drop-outs. Some universities have even gone so far as to take an institutionalized approach to minimize the sophomore slump. Ohio State University recently started a program in which 1,000 sophomores will live in the same dorm and be paired with faculty mentors to help support their academics and internship planning.
Is the Sophomore Slump Unavoidable?
Definitely not. The sophomore slump is just an idea, like a longstanding meme. It’s a construct that definitely should not be self-fulfilling: You don’t have to experience a sophomore slump! In fact, knowing what it looks like is in many ways your best defense against this grade-specific malaise.
Your high school and college teachers, counselors, and administrators are all very familiar with the phenomenon of a sophomore slump. If you’re starting to feel burnt out, don’t hesitate to talk to them early. They can provide strategies and support to help you keep your flow throughout your sophomore year of school.
Still unsure what to expect from sophomore year, or apprehensive about the whole notion of a “slump”? Try scheduling a free 30-minute consultation with Empowerly, whose team of experienced advisors can help you excel during sophomore year and beyond.