I threw up the day I had to leave campus and return home at the end of my freshmen year. I didn’t want to leave my college bubble and had actually avoided going home that entire year. I left freshman year feeling accomplished both academically and socially. Once I returned to Austin for year two, I figured this feeling of excitement and community would return. I’d be ready to work harder, make more connections and more memories.
The minute I returned to campus something felt off. I felt drained before the year even began, but blamed it on the nerves of beginning a new school year in person. Weeks of classes went by yet something still felt wrong. I wasn’t motivated, deadlines passed without submission, talks of the wonderful internships I could soon apply for filled me with dread, I withdrew from friends, and walks to my beloved turtle pond didn’t excite me as they used to. I started longing to go back home. Even the tower, which was once a landmark representing success and anticipation to me, became just another building. I didn’t know why I felt this way until I came across the phenomenon known as “the sophomore slump.”
Though it has many components, and everyone feels it differently, the sophomore slump is a period of disconnection from college life for second-year students. The excitement of independence and “firsts” from freshman year has worn off and you’re left feeling dejected. Students find it hard to maintain their college enthusiasm and live up to the academic and social successes of year one. They may feel emotionally detached from their college towns, pressured to declare a major and make big career decisions, or confused on what they want out of the ‘college experience’ overall.
Second year journalism student Ileana Fernandez agreed that there’s a “slump in the air”.
“My school work has been piling on and it seems I can never catch a break,” Fernandez said. “A two-day weekend is barely enough time to catch my breath. Balancing my job and academics while still attempting to have somewhat of a social life drains me. To be honest I’m just trying to make it through the week, every week, again and again.”
Especially after the pandemic hindered the normalcy of freshman year for the class of 2024, many students came into sophomore year without social groups or familiarity with the campus. Fernandez and sophomore Daja Dansby both stayed home last year. While many classes are still online this semester, Dansby said zoom learning can make school feel non-existent.
“When you learn online it’s so easy to pretend like school doesn’t exist. Like the black boxes on zoom aren’t real people, and like you aren’t really working towards anything,” she said.
“I didn’t know the sophomore slump was a thing until recently,” Dansby added. “I think the fact that we all lost a year to COVID has a lot to do with our collective lack of motivation. This stage in our lives is just a difficult one. We’re away from our friends and family for the first time, we’re messing up and learning lessons, losing friends and making more; we’re experiencing everything that comes with entering young adulthood. Pair that with living during a pandemic alongside the pressure of still needing to strive and succeed. It’s a lot, I’m not surprised we’re all going through it.”
There’s no vaccine for this illness ailing the sophomore class. This phenomenon of collective unmotivation is felt so widely by a myriad of students that it was given its own name. It’s important to remember that the sophomore slump is, indeed, collective. It’s not new and it’s felt by students everywhere. College combined with figuring out who you are as a person, and what you want in life is overwhelming; burnout is inevitable at one point or another. Learning how to cope can be difficult. There’s always hobbies to relieve yourself like podcasts, painting, journaling or exercising, but counseling is also a viable resource. Appointments can be booked at the CMHC to get whatever you need off your chest. This is a battle not fought alone.
“To anyone feeling the same way, please know that there’s nothing wrong with you,” Dansby said. “You aren’t behind, you aren’t dumb. College is just hard. It’s okay to mess up and get stuck in slumps, it happens to everyone. You’re learning, which is what we’re all here for. You’ll get where you need to be eventually. Be gentle with yourself.”
Featured Image by Tara Phipps