Avoiding the sophomore slump
by Bri Pastro
With my senior year on the horizon, I can safely say that each year at college has posed unique challenges, but sophomore year in particular stands out. The infamous “sophomore slump” is real; you come back to campus after the summer, and everything is somehow different. You occupy a different role, different spaces, and are seemingly expected to have it all figured out already.
I’m here to tell you if you’re panicking on the journey back to start sophomore year, you’re not alone. Here’s what I wish I knew sooner about finding peace sophomore year, slump and all:
1. Invest in quality friendships
Over the summer after my freshman year, I lost contact with many people whom I had become friends with during the year. When classes resumed in the fall, I started feeling lonely and isolated myself, which made it even more difficult to reconnect with former friends.
Reaching out to new groups helped immensely. Don’t be scared to join a new activity or group after freshman year. My sophomore fall I joined a sorority and new clubs on campus, and there was representation from every year in the groups of new members. As a result, I found my best friends during my sophomore and junior years.
It’s natural for friend groups to evolve after freshman year, when people are more confident on campus and begin to move in different directions. If you find yourself no longer connecting to the friends you made in your first year dorm, you’re not alone. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing; make time for the occasional coffee with an old friend, but don’t be afraid to explore a new interest or follow a passion apart from the pack.
For those friendships that are working, invest in them! Make time to spend with people who make you feel supported and happy, and know that it’s okay to cut out people who aren’t making you feel that way. You don’t need toxic or stressful relationships in your life.
2. Embrace where you are
“What am I going to declare as my major?”
“What do I want to do after school?”
“Am I ever going to graduate?”
Everyone has moments in college when they question themselves and what they’re doing. I found that talking to faculty helped me greatly with these questions. I bounced from a Biology major to an Architectural Studies degree to what I’m currently studying: Psychology. After talking to faculty in each department, I got a better sense of what I was getting myself into in the “real world.” They can also recommend opportunities such as research or internships that might help you see what it’s really like in your selected field. I realize that talking to faculty can be incredibly daunting, especially for people who may struggle with social anxiety, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out – email is your best friend!
Keep in mind that as a sophomore, it’s also okay to explore what you want to study. Expecting that you’ll know exactly what subjects enthrall you as a second-year student is a tall order. It might feel like you’re the only person navigating these struggles – you’re not. Declaring one major and graduating with a totally different degree is common.
Try not to panic over internships, too. After freshman year, there starts to be a lot of pressure to nab a high-powered summer position that will result in a full-time job once you graduate. It’s ok to spend summers at home if you’re happiest there, stick around campus if that’s the place for you, or head to a new city if you’re looking to explore somewhere new. Summers are limited – don’t force yourself into the 9-5 just because you feel like you should.
3. Break up the monotony
Another challenging aspect of sophomore year is that somewhere along they way, everything starts to feel sort of been-there, done-that. Freshman year is so shiny and exciting, but once you’ve seen it all, campus traditions that once left you awestruck can seem kind of lackluster.
Break out of your routine by exploring the area outside of campus. Grab a friend and head to a new coffee shop to study, rather than sitting at the same table in the library. Do some research online and find a new activity that locals love, like a hiking trail, pottery studio, trampoline park, farmer’s market, or thrift store. My friends and I love exploring different areas around Boston, especially favorites of students from other universities. If you enjoy volunteering, research local charities where you can help out – one of the highlights of my time at Tufts has been helping out at the Walk to Cure Arthritis!
And remember that just because your school doesn’t offer something doesn’t mean you can’t be involved with it! My school doesn’t offer my favorite sport, archery. I’ve found that heading off-campus to an archery range is a good change of pace from the business of school, and connecting with the community outside of my university has been amazing.
4. Accept that you are human
My mental health struggles peaked my junior year with several crises that left me remarkably drained. I had pushed myself so hard academically that I resorted to maladaptive coping strategies and my grades suffered in the long run. Amidst intense academic pressure from my university, my family, and myself, I forgot I was a human being who needed sleep, food, and self-care.
I urge you to put your mental health first. If you need to reduce your course load, that’s okay. If you need to take time off from school, that’s okay. You're not the only one, I promise (my university even has a support group for students who return from leave). When you do need to study, I suggest apps that allow you to build in breaks, such as Forest.
There is such a weight placed on graduating in four years, but it’s artificially constructed. Everyone takes their own path to education, and many people take time off for internships, self-care, time abroad, etc. It’s ok to move at your own pace, and ultimately, you’ll only get the most out of your college experience if you’re well enough to be there.
Finally, if you’re struggling, know that you’re not the only one. It’s okay to not be okay. Healing exists and support is out there ready for you to take it.
You’ve got this.
Bri Pastro is a senior at Tufts University majoring in Psychology. She is interested in psychopathology, specifically PTSD and self injurious behaviors. She is the social media chair of Tufts Active Minds, and spends her free time bullet journaling and listening to Twenty One Pilots.