Slaying Your Second Year

In an article for The New York Times, Samantha Stainburn defines the sophomore slump as a “malaise”. It’s the dissatisfaction with the second instance of any experience (school, work, activity, etc.). Historically, I have felt claustrophobic, stuck in a box and unable to experience the same joy the activities had brought to me the year before. But my second year of college will NOT suffer the same fate. I won’t allow it.


The first step in beating the Slump is to recognize what is causing your malaise. Although possible causes of the Slump are definitely not limited to the binary provided, I often find that mine are caused by one of two things or more commonly, a blend of both. The first is the fear or perception that things are not the same as they once were and are consequently worse. I am looking for familiarity. And the second is the opposite: the fear or perception that things are not different and are consequently worse. I am looking for change!


No matter if your Slump is caused by too much familiarity or lack thereof, there are ways get around it. Below are a few strategies I’ve developed over the years to prevent and/or nurse a Sophomore Slump, no matter if it happens during an actual sophomore year, or simply a second coming.

Create Reasonable Self-Expectations

Don’t commit yourself to the same exact people, activities and feelings as the year before. You’re a dynamic and changing human -- don’t forget it! Your second year of college is guaranteed to be different in some ways, so don’t expect it to be like your freshman year. The minute you can shake-off a freshman perspective from your sophomore mind and body, the happier you will be. I have always had the tendency to set incredibly high expectations for myself, whether that be in leadership roles, relationships or academics. To avoid being too rooted in your previous experience or being too expectant of great change, try stepping into your sophomore year with an open mind but the confidence that came from your experiences as a freshman.


Shake Up Your Routine

One of the best ways I shake off a malaise is to shake up my routine. For me, Sophomore Slumps are often caused by feelings of sameness and stagnancy in routines and activities. A great way to contest this angst is expanding my circles. These circles that need to be stretched include friends, activities, and ideas. Introduce yourself to the cool barista at the Bistro, go to the club you’ve been wanting to check out since last year, or take a class winter quarter that’s not connected to your major (because you don’t have to declare until junior year anyway, HA). New friendships are waiting to be made every day and new experiences are waiting to be had -- you just have to step out of your comfort zone to find them!


Process Your Emotions, Bishh

Even though this article is advocating strategies to avoid the Sophomore Slump -- I do not want to disregard that if the Slump catches you, sometimes it warrants a change to get past it. This can be cured by small changes, like taking a new route from your dorm to your UCOR- 2100 class or taking a kickboxing class at the gym. However, other times, it can only be cured by a big change -- like switching schools or taking a year off. The only way you can know how to distinguish what type of change needs to happen is if you take time to process your emotions and feelings and actually take inventory of your life. College students too often repress their emotions, which can cause lots of problems. Don’t wait until winter break to think about all of the stuff you’ve been doing and the things you’ve been experiencing. Try to process your emotions as they come to you -- no matter if they are positive or negative, it is never a good idea to keep them pent up. In addition to all the great resources here at SU (HAWC, Student counseling, RHA/your RAs, etc), it can really help to have a journal around and make the time every week to reflect and tune into yourself. Being social is important, but so is making the time to be by yourself.


In those times of crisis when it feels like maybe you can’t shake that Slump, repeat this mantra. Encourage and inspire your personal strength and know that you CAN get through it.



I, (first name last name) will NOT allow unreasonably high expectations of myself and others, fear of change OR stagnancy, and the failure to process my emotions to lead me into a Sophomore Slump.