Depending on who you talk to, “sophomore slump” is either “ubiquitous” and “unavoidable” or a total non-issue.
If your second-year student isn’t experiencing it, you can feel grateful. If you are sensing a slump, however, you’re not alone.
Here’s what may be going on, and how you can help your second-year student turn things around (or fend off the syndrome altogether if you are the parent of a first-year student).
Students and parents alike agree that sophomore year means the “excitement and new experiences” of freshman year are a thing of the past, “but you haven’t found your rhythm like you do in junior year” (Ziv, Pomona College sophomore).
Catherine, a sophomore at Baylor University, agreed. She also pointed out that even as “enthusiasm and motivation” falter a bit, academic pressure increases for second-year students. “Many of the prerequisites are out of the way and sophomores begin taking upper level classes and classes specific to their majors. Accountability is higher,” she said, and there’s none of the “wiggle room” professors sometimes allow freshmen. The “slump,” in other words, can equate to a GPA dip as well as a generalized slump in spirits.
Some second-year students are still searching for a place on campus — a club, team, or campus job that might create a feeling of home. Students who don’t know what they want to major in may feel anxious and unfocused. “My son is slow to understand his big picture and how he can make the best use of his talents,” one parent observed.
Many universities have instituted “Second Year Experience” programs to counter the lack of momentum and connection that can lead to sophomore slump. At large universities, SYE living-learning communities are designed to keep students living on campus and engaged. Ohio State, for example, has documented higher retention and graduation rates among students who live on campus sophomore year (95.7% vs. 91% for all the other students in the entering class).
At other schools, SYE programming includes events that connect students with faculty members. At Duke, students attend “career luncheons” in the faculty dining hall while at Loyola University in Chicago funds are available for students to take professors out. Loyola also sponsors a sophomore retreat and “Halfway to Graduation” celebration and gives out a special “Second Year Finals Kit” at the Student Center.
They get involved.
They focus on major and career.
They enjoy deeper friendships, better housing, and expanded social opportunities.
They take care of health and wellness.
Parents can support slumping sophomores by listening and encouraging. Students who feel unfocused and indecisive may benefit from some time in the career center or an appointment with an academic advisor. Involvement on campus and good health are both spirit-boosters. When students are grounded in the positive, they can be more resilient if or when they do hit a bump in the road.
Other recent articles by Diane Schwemm:
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