Wise Fools: Sophomore Slump

Hello prospective students, confused current students, and lost surfers of the web. Welcome to Wise Fools, where I address the ins and outs of being a sophomore at Brown University. My name is Justin Ferenzi, and I’m here to help shine some light on the intricacies of a student’s second year. 

Ah, yes. It may have perhaps seemed odd to some of you readers that a column about sophomore life has gone on for so long without addressing the most infamous legend of the second year of college. I have no one reason or excuse; for one, it is certainly not a universal phenomenon. Nobody experiences it in quite the same way, or at all. For another, I hadn’t quite ridden it out yet, nor was I sure that it was even happening to me. How could I ever be so tactless as to pretend to have the answers, or the knowledge, when it was plain I did not?

I am, of course, referring to the (cue Jaws theme) Sophomore Slump.

The Slump is ubiquitous, having reached almost mythological status as the tales have been passed down through generations of Brown students. It starts out innocently enough–you’re tired, a little frustrated with the constant bombardment of demanding work, and you start to lose base with your motivations and drives. And then, without warning, a spiral: missed assignments, slacking off on studying, poorer grades, social withdrawal, self-doubt.

It is certainly not fun.

The pressures of college at any university, let a lone a competitive, Ivy-League university, are enough to get to anyone. Come the middle of sophomore year, it is inevitable to experience at least a little bit of frustration. When it grows to a point that it’s impinging on your life or on your studies, however, is when you have fully entered the Slump.

I should pause here to note that your self-care and mental health are of the utmost importance. If you are feeling any of the “symptoms” of the Sophomore Slump, you shouldn’t just write it off. Talk to your family, friends, or other support systems. Do things that make you feel happy and healthy. Reach out to CAPS or the chaplain’s office. Always stay attuned to what you need to be healthy and safe here at Brown.

One thing of great import to remember during the throes of sophomore slump is that everyone is going through this, to some degree. You are just as worthy as anyone else to be here, to take the classes you’re taking, to follow the dreams you’re following. Everyone has something going on “behind the scenes,” no matter how high-functioning they may seem.

So what do you do? Here are some of the things I’ve gathered from my personal experience with the Slump and hearing about friends’ experiences:

  • Write a journal. Keeping in touch with your thoughts and emotions is always a great way to achieve some clarity.
  • Go back and read your letter to your advisor. It sounds corny, but look at how bright-eyed and cotton-tailed you sounded in that note! Recalling your freshman self’s motivation might help to re-instill some of that old drive.
  • Talk to professors in your chosen field(s) of study. What pushed them along when they were in you shoes? How did they wind up doing what they’re doing? What do they find fulfillment in?
  • Let people know what’s going on. As I mentioned above, talk to someone, anyone! Whether you need someone to provide advice, to co-ruminate with you, or just listen, don’t keep things bottled up.
  • Take it one step at a time. School can get daunting. But just go at it one assignment, one test, one day at a time. Accomplishing small things, be it finishing a paper or just cleaning your room, can help to build up your self-confidence and motivation over time.
  • Reflect. What is really at the core of the Slump for you? As I detailed in a previous post, a big part of my Slump experience was realizing that I wasn’t studying what was really fulfilling to me. So I switched. Listening to yourself, really and truly, can be a great source of dealing with the Slump. Whether it’s concentrating in something your heart isn’t in anymore, taking too many classes, pesky habits like comparing yourself to your classmates or whatever else, finding the root source of your Slump can help to alleviate it.

No matter what happens, just keep in mind that this, like all things, is temporary. Practice some self-care, self-reflection, and proactivity, and pretty soon you’ll be back to your fully, totally awesome self, ready to tackle junior year with some joie de vivre.

When Justin Ferenzi isn’t blogging, he’s obsessively refreshing his email account for blogging-related correspondence. For any and all questions about life at Brown, don’t hesitate to send a message to justin_ferenzi@brown.edu


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