Learning to Stand up Against the Sophomore Slump

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There’s a reason why the Greek word “sophomore” translates to “wise fool.” That’s exactly what a college second-year is. Like second nature, you know your way around campus and you know your way in with the TAs. You know your way to a good party (you get three to five addresses every weekend) and how to deal with the aftermath. You’ve done it a few times.

But you haven’t found your way in the world, and, frankly, you fear you never will. Not to mention, you find yourself doing only the bare minimum in your classes.

It’s like your academic self is taking a hiatus. Dubbed the “sophomore slump,” this period in which a second-year student finds herself feeling completely defeated and burned out is the bane of an undergraduate’s college existence. It’s like your “lost year,” except you’re not Shakespeare, and when it comes to that essay, you kinda wish you were.

I can attest. Sophomore year sucks at first. Forgive the bluntness. But it does. Sophomore year feels like the honeymoon phase of freshmen year has turned into a really messy divorce. And your old self, the glistening, spritely first year that woke up every morning ready for the day, wants full custody of your significantly better GPA.

The rose colored glasses have turned the color of a very parched rose and you’re just waiting for something, anything to bring you back to life.

Symptoms of the the Sophomore Slump

  1. You have come to the realization that you are not special anymore. Suddenly you’re taking upper division classes and, unlike your dinosaurs class, they’re not a walk in the (Jurassic) park. And the nights just seem endless.
  2. You call your parents less often. They still love you. If anything changed, they would tell you over FaceTime.
  3. You hang with the same crowd. Some will hang out with you because they want to and actively seek you out when you are not around. Others will hang out with you only when it’s convenient for them and disappoint you. But they’re your friends just the same.
  4. You watch TV to procrastinate about anything other than watching TV. You stream How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and then every other movie that Netflix suggests because watching the last Friends episode ever seems too sad for the moment.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, chances are you are a college sophomore. Or someone living vicariously through a college sophomore, to whom I ask, why?

But, anyway, there is a flip side to the sophomore slump. So strike that power pose and listen up.

Cures for the Sophomore Slump

  1. Get out of the mind-set that sophomore year is supposed to be lousy. Forget what people like me will tell you. Don’t get caught in the mean trap of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  2. Start doing things for you. Branch out. Chances are you’re not working for the same firm as your first-year roommate turned friend. No! Do things your friends aren’t. Then at dinner, you’ll bring something unique to the table, literally.
  3. Widen your circle. Hang out with the people you meet in your classes. Yes, that means letting the relationship progress from the “Hi, how’s it going?” stage.
  4. Take a fitness class; I took up ballet. If you’ve paid for a class or get course credit for it, you’re more likely to follow through and actually go. These classes are nice respites from academic life. And unlike your friends, you won’t have to come up with an excuse about why you’re not hitting the gym.

The so-called sophomore slump hit me like it does many college sophomores. I came to the realization that no year would be the same as my idyllic first year where I lived within doors of my closest friends. But with this realization came the understanding that each year would bring new experiences, some worthy of an Instagram post and others not so Insta-worthy.

There was hope, though. I took the time to try new things for me. My friend tried to drag me since our first year to salsa lessons, so I finally went. I even went to that annual school concert that I didn’t think I was cool enough for as a freshman. Becoming an RA gave me crazy stories to bring to the dining commons when my friends met up for dinner. I really got into my ballet class and decided to take it twice a week. I did things to enhance myself, make me a more interesting gal.

So that’s how I did it. That’s how I turned my sophomore slump into a power pose.

Chelsea Brandwein is a UCSB senior who will be graduating in June with a degree in Classics and Professional Writing. Ever since she was old enough to wrap her fingers around a pen and keep it upright, she has been writing. Between juggling her work as a student, a Resident Assistant and a researcher, Chelsea can be found jotting down witty dialogue or rom com story arc ideas; she hopes to one day become a screenwriter.

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