Ask most people which years of college they enjoyed most and least and you’ll most likely hear “senior year” and “freshmen year”, respectively. It’s a logical progression: you go on, you make more friends, you find your major and maybe your calling. You start to feel more secure in your college choice and hopefully in yourself. Ideally, you learn more and more and leave prepared to face the “real world” that our parents and professors are fond of lecturing (in the latter case, literally) us about. It makes sense that the trajectory goes up and up, and this is probably the best case scenario.
Then what is the “sophomore slump” and why does it happen? I won’t claim it happens to everyone, but it happens to enough people that a search for “sophomore slump” on Google leads to a few helpful advice articles (like this one) on how to beat it. I felt the “slump” very strongly last year and, after much reflection, managed to pin down the reasons why, and how to deal.
Problem: HOUSING. Freshmen are expected to find even numbers of friends to secure the best housing sophomore year. You’re the fifth, seventh, or ninth guy or girl? Sorry. This is a freshmen year problem, sure, but its consequences spill over into sophomore year.
And, supposing everything goes your way, there’s always the issue of that 6-man falling short of your expectations. Best friends don’t always make good roommates.
Solution: If you’ve got less than stellar housing, get over it. I know how unhelpful that is, but really, there’s only so long you can dwell on that. Find friends who don’t see you as (literally) the odd man out. Stop complaining about CoRo, or wherever it is you wound up, and get out there. If you’re disappointed in your roommates—mad for whatever reason—there needs to be a conversation. Don’t bottle it up and don’t go right to the RA. We’re all adults here even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
Problem: Boston College makes every effort to make its freshmen feel at home. There’s no shortage of activities and retreats for them and clubs give priority to recruiting from earlier years (to ensure the continued existence of the club). This is fundamentally a good thing, but can make sophomores feel slightly shafted since they’re expected to be more independent.
Solution: Those services and activities didn’t go anywhere. There are plenty of sophomore-specific things (prom, retreats) and you’re not locked out of joining clubs. They just aren’t as well publicized. If you ever feel alone or bored as a sophomore, it’s a signal you need to take more initiative.
Problem: You’re expected to have your major picked out by the end of sophomore year. This could lead to a credits deficit which requires “creative” (by which I mean intense) scheduling to fix. An estimated 60% of college students change their majors at some point. I wrote an article way-back-when on my personal switch from Bio/Pre-Med to English and all the trials and tribulations that brought. Oh, in addition to the pressure of switching, you can expect your classes to get harder, too.
Solution: If you’re a freshman, start thinking about your major now. If you’re a sophomore, there’s a time for thought and there’s a time for feeling and this is one of the times for feeling. If you’re not content with your current career path now, chances are you won’t be later. You’re better off making the leap than you are remaining in a program you don’t like. I can’t guarantee you’ll like what you change too, but if you’re thinking of changing, chances are you already don’t like what you’re doing. Your present path brings no happiness.
Note: I’m not advocating taking the easy way out. If you hate it just because it’s work, toughen up. If you hate it because you have no engagement with the subject material and you can’t foresee any career options you like at the end of the line, switch.
So, yeah, there are a few reasons my sophomore year was not what it could have been, but hindsight is 20/20 and I know some of you out there are smarter than I am and see what I wrote as intuitively obvious. It's harder than freshman year in every regard (excepting the admittedly tough initial adjustment to college life freshmen encounter) but beating it has more to do with attitude than anything else.
School, major and year: A&S, English (minor in Philosophy), 2014
Hometown: Bethpage, New York
What makes the Gavel so BANGin’? I’d say it’s our openness to change. We’re built to adapt to changing student needs. And that, I think, is pretty cool.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a pep talk the night before you moved into BC as a freshman, what is the most important piece of advice that you would give to your former self? Be honest with yourself about who you are—the good and the bad. Once you know who that person is, figure out what he wants, and how to get it.
What is your favorite study spot on campus? O’Neill, 1st floor, in the booths (when I can get one). Bapst is pretty and has that “Hogwarts” vibe but it’s too quiet. You sneeze, and people look at you like you’re a witch just begging to be given over to the cleansing flame.
What is your go-to meal at Late Night? Chicken strips and BBQ sauce. Wouldn’t say the chicken’s anything special, but I’ve got a weakness for BBQ sauce.
What is the #1 most played song on your iTunes? Honestly, my musical tastes are always in flux.
What is the best Halloween costume that you have ever worn? A fox! (What does the fox say?)
If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, which would you choose? The Cheesecake Factory! I won’t pretend it’s my favorite, but their sheer variety makes the whole “one restaurant” thing less of a deal breaker.
If you could befriend the main characters from any TV show or movie, who would you choose and why? Spencer Reid, from Criminal Minds. If you’ve seen the show, you know why.