In the aftermath of Halloweek, I for one can attribute to the sense of mingled self-reproach (did I really wear that?) and panic (my paper is due when?) shared by many a college student. Sadly, for many of us this is a feeling that hasn’t seemed to abate since returning to school for our second year. Yes, I am referring to that most horrible of afflictions: the dreaded sophomore slump.
What is it?
I first heard tell of this infamous phenomenon near the end of my freshman year, as an upperclassman remarked in passing that I should hold onto my enthusiasm as long as possible, because next year it would all be gone. Then, earlier this semester, as my fellow BuDS workers and I were prepping the Ivy Room for opening, one of my senior coworkers was fondly recounting her time at Brown. “My first year, I had really high highs and really low lows,” she said, adding that this was natural for a transitional period. “But my sophomore year there was basically no change. It was like instead of riding a roller coaster, I was sitting in rush hour traffic.”
Urban Dictionary defines the sophomore slump as the following occurrence: “During a college student’s sophomore year, their GPA drops after having a high GPA from their freshman year.” (Apparently, this also refers to those occasions where an artist’s second album is far less popular than their first. Case in point: 50 Cent.) Similarly, Wikipedia’s take on the matter focuses on general quality: “An instance in which a second attempt fails to live up to the standards of the first effort.” Well. This certainly doesn’t sound good.
Is it real?
Depending on who you ask. For example, my roommate, a.k.a. queen of having her life together, is absolutely killing the game this year. She has an in-school paid-internship, one of her two concentrations already declared, and interviews lined up for next summer. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have students like my friend who could be described as your typical frat boy, who’s given up on attending class in lieu of more appealing pursuits such as drinking and smoking, and manages to pass with C’s. I would like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m taking a lot of classes for my concentration and I got myself a campus job this year, but then again I forgot to get my registration PIN on time and all the seminars I wanted to take next semester filled up within .2 seconds. And I think a lot of us are like this, somewhere in between. We’re sort of going through the motions without feeling the same sense of purpose or motivation as before, when everything was novel and exciting.
What can we do about it?
Don’t underestimate solidarity, my friends. To quote from one of Disney Channel’s greatest movies, we’re all in this together. (Cue Zac Efron doing some stomp-claps on a basketball court.)
Across the campus, across the nation, there are students struggling to wake up for that 9am, guzzling coffee after coffee, wondering where their eagerness from last year has gone. Take solace in the fact that the intellectual energy that got you into college doesn’t disappear over a single summer. It’s still there, hibernating, waiting for the opportunity to reappear with a vengeance.