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Wellness > Mental Health

The Sophomore Slump: Why Can’t I Just Deal?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

As students return to school, everyone goes through a different range of emotions. But, a phenomenon hits sophomores across the country each year; second-year students can feel “slumped” in their first semester. Penn State sophomores were polled on their feelings and emotions on their second year of college.

Back to school is a time of change. New friends, classes and living situations throw students into a new life every year.

Before college, students had multiple years to adjust to the same school and relatively same life. So post-high school, can be a little more difficult.

With students finally adjusting to their new lives in their first year of college, nobody expects the difficulties of sophomore year.

Muhlenberg University defines the sophomore slump as the new set of stressors applied to sophomores like “the push to declare a major, find an internship, and decide whether or not to study abroad.”

With these added pressures and expectations, sophomores “receive fewer warnings about the do’s and don’ts of college life; they are expected to know how things work.”

Cabrini University identifies the symptoms of the sophomore slump as those “who lack motivation, are indecisive about selecting a major, feel disconnected socially and academically, and engage in behavior like excessive drinking that interferes with their academic success.”

These first few weeks of sophomore year at Penn State have been hard for many.

One sophomore said, “I feel like I’m always tired and have no motivation to go above and beyond for things I usually went above and beyond for.”

Sophomore year from freshman year is a huge adjustment! It is important to acknowledge how students are doing with this transition.

So, I asked second-year students at Penn State how they were feeling.

A student said, “Everything feels like it’s getting to be a lot. It’s not like I’m in a shiny new environment like how it was freshman year, or in my major getting close to graduation like jr and sr years.”

In the thirty students polled, 60% of respondents answered they are in the sophomore slump. And, 80% responded that they noticed their peers seemed to be in the sophomore slump.

Of the symptoms mentioned, 88.9% said they felt a lack of motivation. 66.7% felt indecisive about life in general. 61.1% had gained unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviors. 55.6% felt disconnected socially.

Many students opened up about their feelings, and two comments in particular stood out to me.

A student shared, “I just feel so disconnected from my friends and it unmotivated me to do schooling and it’s been awful so on the weekends I drink a lot and I’ve gotten into weed.”

“The sophomore slump has affected me in friendships. As a freshman, everyone is so excited to meet new people and new friends, sophomores not so much. I feel really alone most of the time and have been drowning myself in work to cope,” said another student.

60% of Sophomores responded that they felt the effects of the sophomore slump.

A sophomore student tied it together nicely, “Sometimes it takes my brain 3x time to process normal things. It is annoying because I could/should be using that time to get more work done. I feel like sometimes there is too much going on.”

Plenty of students feel the same. Second-years are lacking academic motivation, social engagement and excitement for the school year.

The sophomore slump does not necessarily need to take place in the beginning of the year or even in sophomore year, but it hits at the point where students feel adjusted yet isolated.

A PSU student shared, “I used my summer to reflect on my freshman year, because I felt like I really lost myself. So this year is definitely better for me.”

Another student said “Not at the moment — it may as time goes on.”

You are not alone.

No matter when you feel these emotions, know that you are not alone.

It is easy to get swept up in these feelings, letting panic fill in. But, it is important to remember that others are feeling these emotions and fears.

Students across Penn State and the nation are feeling just like you.

Many universities acknowledge the sophomore slump and suggest some activities.

Texas Tech University suggests students take care of their body and health, use school resources like advisors and career development centers and get more involved in student life.

Everything can just feel like a lot in the sophomore slump.

In my article, “8 Things I Have Done to Escape the Sophomore Slump,” I talk about some things I have tried to ward off the lack of motivation and stress.

I have found that it is ok to take your time to get out of the sophomore slump. And, it is ok to take things at your own pace.

Just remember that others are going through the same thing. So, do not be scared of sharing your feelings with your peers or upperclassmen. They understand!

Disclaimer: If you feel as if these feelings are affecting your day-to-day life, please consult a doctor. The sophomore slump is generally referring to a motivational lapse and stress about the future. You should not be attributing feelings of depression, anxiety, and addiction to the sophomore slump.

At the end of the day, you need to do what makes you happy and healthy. Remember to return to those healthy coping mechanisms, find things that make you feel passionate and stick to who you are.

Kyra is a second-year student at Penn State. She is double-majoring in Political Science and Broadcast Journalism. She is also involved in PSU's TEDx program. For fun, she loves to play tennis, read, hang out with friends, and eat cheezits!