The phrase “sophomore slump,” at least as I first heard it, is sometimes used to describe “the curse” of an artist or musician’s second major release. After a well-received debut, the artist or musician produces a second effort that barely lives up to the promise of their first. I have only recently come to understand it in the context of the “slump” that many students experience upon returning for their second year of college.
After high school, I took a few semesters off to work, save money and figure out what I wanted to do with myself. I felt disconnected from the campus culture at the school where I had enrolled part-time, and I was doing little more than accumulating credits. I wanted to be excited about school again. A few months before my twentieth birthday, I decided to enroll at Mills full-time for the following semester.
Last year was the first time I’d ever experienced all of the Brand New Exciting Things that come with being a first-time college student: living in a dorm, moving out-of-state, pulling all-nighters. I absolutely loved the community of people I lived with in Warren Olney, and after a while, Mills felt like an endless sleepover (in the best way possible). My classes were engaging, but not stressful. Being new to the Bay Area meant that I got to explore it in all of its sprawling, cultural, (expensive) glory. For eight months, I was a tourist in San Francisco, the Redwoods, San Jose, and right here in Oakland.
Sophomore year felt different almost immediately. I was not living with the same community of people that made Mills feel like home last year. I was dreading the full course load I was taking in order to graduate on time, and I was having serious doubts about one of the majors I had already declared. It was safe to say that the spell was broken; the novelty of college had worn off, and it was time to get serious. This realization, of course, was the driving force behind my own “sophomore slump.”
In many ways, the “sophomore slump” is unavoidable. You cannot expect to live with the same community of close friends each year. Some of them will inevitably graduate, transfer, or just drift. There is also an argument to be made against living with friends all through college, in that it can discourage meeting new people. And there is no avoiding the “Choose a Major” phase of sophomore year; it’s something that you agree to do when you decide to become a college student. Still, the inevitability of that decision does not lessen how permanent and final it feels.
I have tried to get through this semester by reminding myself that I am only 21 years old; I have a lifetime to change my mind. If anything, living apart from my best friends has forced me to make an effort to see them as often as I can, which is great prep for maintaining friendships after graduation. Into adulthood, you actually do not live with your best friends and see them every day, or so I’ve heard.
I have adopted this mantra, not just for school, but for anything at all that stresses me out: nothing is fixed, even if it seems that way.