The Reality of the “Sophomore Slump”

For sophomores, the safety net of first year is a distant memory. Instead, expectations to declare a major weigh heavily upon them. At Colorado College, sophomores receive weekly emails about conquering the “sophomore slump”.

Search “sophomore year” on CC’s website and you encounter a cliché statement: “Start your year off with some soul-searching and remember: if you want to figure out what to do with your life, you must first figure out what you love to do.”

While this statement is intended to encourage, it also has the effect of causing significant angst for many. The hope is that somewhere between First Year Experience and the subsequent six blocks, students figure out what it is they love to do—students should see their future laid out before them and in pursuit of that future, spend the next two and half years completing an identified major (and possibly even a minor) and following a path to their dream job. The College refers to this academic path through sophomore year as the sophomore “jump”. Yet many sophomores struggle to find the path and instead fall into the “slump” at some point.

In order to avoid this potentially imminent slump, sophomores at CC are encouraged to work hard curating relationships with faculty apart from their advisors and professors. According to CC’s website, sophomores should be growing and developing not only academically but personally and socially as well. To make this jump and avoid the slump, sophomores will ideally take advantage of every resource that CC has to offer. Despite the guidelines and resources available for a successful second year at college, however, many sophomores find themselves falling into the inevitable slump.

Students see the slump as the first real taste of college life beyond the euphoria of first year. As a first year, the excitement, energy and resources to help you find your way are endless. First Year Experience classes, New Student Orientation groups, and advisors are all dedicated to cultivating a smooth assimilation into campus life. While some students commit to using these resources after their first year, they are not as apparent to all students as the shelter of their first year fades. Sophomore Nathan Agarwal said, “the sophomore slump is something that is rather hard to define. Although, it’s something that you know when you experience it. If I had to define it, I would say that the sophomore slump is a mid-college crisis that is full of doubt, uncertainty, confusion, and disillusionment.”

The sophomore slump seems to be the point at which students start to ask themselves tough questions for which answers are not always readily available: Why am I here? Do I belong here? What am I doing with my life? The Sophomore Jump program is designed to help sophomores answer these questions. Faculty Dinners, for example, allow sophomores to meet professors and learn from their own experiences in discovering their interests and career paths. While these opportunities are offered each block, they are limited to only the first twenty students.

Although there are other lunches and discussions focused on study abroad and grant opportunities, the effectiveness of these events is debated by a number of students on campus. Juniors Augie Nuszer and CJ Thomson did not utilize Sophomore Jump opportunities. “My friends and roommate were most helpful, because without them, nobody would have pressured me into getting out of bed and actively being a member of society,” said Nuszer.

In addition to challenging oneself to answer tough questions, another side effect of the slump is pressure on friendships formed as first-years.  Sophomores naturally begin to consider which friendships are most important to maintain as pressure to succeed academically becomes more pressing. This challenge is exacerbated by the wider range of housing options available to sophomores, which causes groups of friends to disperse across campus. Some sophomores who choose to live in smaller housing may struggle with feelings of missing out on the larger community atmosphere that comes with living in the dorms. Sophomore Nathan Agarwal said, “If I want to see a friend of mine, I have to be more intentional and walk to meet them.”

Trying to find a major, a sense of belonging, and maintaining friendships can be overwhelming at times. “If nothing else, recognize that this uncertainty is natural, a signal of growth, not the lack of, and unlike your homework, does not need to be done with by the end of the block,” continued Agarwal.  “In fact, this uncertainty never really leaves, and coming to terms with that is, I think, the most reassuring part. Appreciate that the choices that you have made so far have gotten you here, and that if you take it step by step, you’ll be surprised with the distance that you’ll cover.

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