The Sophomore Slump: More Than a Myth

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By Kerri Pinchuk > Junior > Journalism > University of Maryland

Freshman year ended. You spent an entire summer back home under the dictatorial, no-beer-pong-at-the-dinner-table rules of your parents and kept a blog entitled, “101 Reasons Why I Love College.” September is here, and sophomore year is going to be awesome.

But before you can even finish downloading Asher Roth’s new album, you sense something has changed. Professors are assigning homework, your favorite bars are too predictable and you’re caught in limbo somewhere between freshman year and being an upperclassman. You’re sad, depressed and, worst of all, bored.

The sophomore slump is a phenomenon a majority of college students know all too well. According to the University of Central Arkansas’ website, the sophomore slump can be defined as a “period of developmental confusion,” where students may face difficulties in academic, social, and personal development. A student’s second year is usually the time to pick a major, when classes become more difficult and professors expect more. In addition, after the novelties of college social life have worn off, nothing seems quite as special.

University of Nevada senior Kendyll Mahoney recalls the days when she fell hard into a sophomore slump. “I guess I was just so bored with everything, even with my friends,” she said. “I wanted life to be as exciting as it was when we were freshmen; we were kind of naïve back then and everything was new.”

In general, sophomores receive fewer warnings about the do’s and don’ts of college than freshmen do. When sophomores return to college expecting round two, the disappointment can be overwhelming.

Mahoney, who wasn’t involved on campus freshman year, said that suddenly nothing social really appealed to her. “It was the same people, places and drama every night.” Finally, Mahoney decided to combat her slump head on. Instead of sitting in her dorm room waiting for things to get better, Mahoney got a job bartending off campus. Not only was she able to make new friends (other than Washingtons and Benjamins), but each of her shifts were completely unpredictable – exactly what she needed.

In addition to her new job, Mahoney started researching study abroad programs for her junior year. So what if upperclassmen were no longer waiting in line to buy her drinks? Taking her mind off of the present and looking forward to the future, Mahoney said, really made a difference in her attitude.

The best way to turn your sophomore slump into a sophomore pump? The University of Arkansas suggests that you recognize everything you have already accomplished – like surviving freshman year – then, try something new. It’s not too late to load up on extra-curricular activities. University Craft Society not your thing? Get a job, volunteer, play a sport or start a club of your own “The worst thing you can do,” Mahoney agrees, “is let the slump take over.”

10 Awesome Ways to Turn Your Sophomore Slump into The Sophomore Pump

1. Get to know a professor outside of class (and office hours).

Consider your professor an expert in whatever field you plan to pursue. Only a fool would pass up the opportunity to pick that professor’s brain. “It’s important for sophomores to make connections with faculty,” said Traci Freeman, Director of the Colket Center for Academic Excellence at Colorado College. “Once a block we host a [sophomore dinner with a] faculty member…so they can have contact with people they don’t have in their classes.” If your university doesn’t offer sophomore-specific dinners like Colorado College, you can always look for faculty receptions that will get you the one-on-one professor time you need.

2. Find sophomore-driven programs.

The faculty and staff care about you. “Sophomore year is the year of planning. It comes as a shock for students, especially at small colleges,” said Freeman. “They come back and we tell them to start making decisions, and that feels really abrupt.” Your college wants to help you navigate this confusing time; schools including University of Texas at Dallas and Minnesota State University Mankato offer Sophomore Jump programs specifically for sophomores to start building those career tools they’ll soon need. Colorado College offers the Sophomore Jump program to help students start building a resume, apply and find scholarships for internships and plan and finance study abroad.

3. Go Greek.

You never thought about going Greek…until you felt major FOMO seeing your high school friends’ posts about their big-little reveal. “I decided to go through Greek recruitment and join a sorority and I would say it was one of the best choices I made last year. I found a group of incredible women who became some of my best friends and supported and loved me even when that sophomore slump was getting me down,” said Pepperdine University junior Angelina Diaz. Three years leaves plenty of time for you to find your sorority sisters or fraternity brothers until you hit alumni status.

4. Network at your college’s career fair.

If you know what you want to do with your life and where you want to work, make contacts ASAP. “Recruiters love to see freshmen and sophomores at career fairs starting to network,” said V. Casey Dozier, Ph.D., the Program Director, Instruction, Research and Evaluation at the Florida State University Career Center. Business majors can chat up one of the Big Four recruiters—or talk to all of them—to get a sense of which accounting firm promotes the company culture they like. Or communication majors can talk to different agencies to see whether they want to apply to boutique, medium or large firms. Even if you don’t know your dream career yet, talk to different professionals and narrow down your choices.

5. Find a job shadow program.

Pre-med students can’t make out the light at the end of the tunnel as sophomores. Two more years of undergrad, possibly a gap year and four years of medical school stand between them and an M.D. So how do they know that they’ll actually enjoy practicing medicine? They shadow doctors to see what day-to-day life is like. Similarly, sophomores in other fields can find job shadow programs. Your career center will know what employers want to see your face in their office—so reach out to your career advisor for help. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that the insurance business has an exciting aspect to it, finding clients the best possible coverage at the best price.

6. Find your ride-or-die friends.

Freshman year, you befriend everyone and anyone on your floor. Now think about how many of them you’ll actually stay friends with past move-out day—probably the same amount of high school friends you still talk to regularly. “I learned to build relationships with friends who will always have my back,” said University of San Francisco junior Samantha Ruiz. “They were the ones that helped pull me out of my slump. We were all in the same boat, trying to make it through school while struggling emotionally.” Figure out which friends you actually enjoy spending time with during your sophomore year. More importantly, consider who adds a positive influence to your life. If you find yourself with no friends after factoring those in, go find new friends.

7. Explore local hotspots in your college town.

You can find a McDonald’s almost anywhere in the United States and watch a Hollywood movie from any local theater. Instead, see what adventures await your squad around your college town. “I liked my second year because I experienced much more new things with my friends including new food and places I haven’t been before,” said USF junior Patrick White. Before upper-level courses chain you to the library table, explore the place you’ll probably call home for only four years. White and his friends hit NoCal hotspots San Jose, Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay. Seniors can’t travel much while prepping for exams like the LSAT or GRE, but guess what? Sophomores have all the time in the world for activities.

8. Apply for “junior and senior” only internships, anyway.

What’s the worst that can happen? Rejection comes with the territory of applying for internships, anyway. If your resume and cover letter look on point, your application could end up in the pool. “Even employers will look at sophomores as potential candidates,” said Dozier. And even if you do get that rejection letter, use the experience to network. Dozier said, “Sophomores can build that connection with employers now with an informational interview.”

9. Network with informational interviews.

At an informational interview, you can make contacts in your field and learn about the day-to-day work. Now that’s a win-win. Send an email to a professional asking for 15 minutes of their time. You can meet up for coffee or even just talk on the phone. “People love to talk about what they do in a day and people love to give back,” Dozier said. “In an informational interview, you can ask, ‘What do they like and dislike about their job? What new things are on the horizon in that field?’” You can also ask about work/life balance or salary ranges for entry-level employees to make sure your personal goals align with your potential career. That way sophomores can set themselves up to apply for these jobs and internships if they can’t be considered now.

10. Treat every year like freshman year.

Mike wants to go back to college.

Monsters University

“For freshmen, everything is new. Sophomores need to find something else that’s new,” Dozier said. So many seniors, including me, walk graduation with lingering regrets. Freeman also suggested that sophomores reengage in campus life and try something new. Don’t let the sophomore slump get the best of you. Take exciting electives, join any and all clubs that interest you and keep working to find the passion that will make you future job enjoyable. “[I’m] going into my third year with confidence, excitement and a little more know-how on what to do to keep myself on task, organized and motivated the next two years,” Diaz said. “And I owe that to the little bump in my path called the sophomore slump that taught me how resilient I am.” Deny the sophomore slump’s existence and you might look back on this year as your best year of college.

Updated August 8, 2017 by Celina Pelaez to include “10 Awesome Ways to Turn Your Sophomore Slump into The Sophomore Pump.”

College Magazine Staff

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