Five reasons sophomore year is the most stressful year of college (and what to do about it)

By: Andrew Lovgren

The transition from high school to college signals the start of an intense growing experience.

From class work to dorm life, college holds new challenges and responsibilities that often result in extremely stressful situations. Dealing with the stress of a year in college can result in the kind of personal growth that makes college worthwhile.

Though many find their freshman year the most difficult, the sophomore year offers completely different obstacles and challenges that makes it one of the most stressful years of the college experience.

Here are some of the reasons why, along with some ways you can combat the ‘sophomore slump.’

1. It’s just not the same

If you loved your freshman year, it may be difficult to accept that that year is done and gone. This may lead to an unsavory comparison to that first taste of freedom.

Sophomore year was the most difficult because I kept comparing it to freshmen year, and it simply wasn’t freshmen year,” said Jeremy Bork, a senior.

Friends may have graduated or transferred, and so many new faces may change the feel of your classes or living arrangements, making sophomore year a time to learn to adjust and respond to change.

What to remember: A new year means it’s going to be a new experience. New doesn’t have to mean that it’s going to be better or worse. Make it your own and embrace the new status as a second-year student.

2. Trying everything

Entering school, it may have been difficult to join certain clubs, organizations or campus events. Year two allows you to get involved in more activities. Perhaps too many more.

I was absolutely swamped with commitments,” said Brian Brandau, a 2012 graduate of his sophomore year. “I think maybe most people overload themselves sophomore year. They get through freshman year, think “Hey, I can handle this” and go overboard the next year.”

Trying new things is fun, not to mention one of the most important parts of college. However, over-extending over too many activities will make it difficult to do your best in any one thing and may cause your grades to take a dive (which is also important).

What to remember: Try new things and get involved, but be sure to schedule your time, leaving enough free time to put your best into everything and still have a social life.

3. Major classes = Major stress

Sophomore year means that classes become more focused on a field of study, resulting in more difficult, specialized subject matter. What may have been easy, freshman year classes turn into taxing classes that can stretch students to new academic lengths.

I was past the intro classes and into the nitty-gritty of my English major,” said senior Alena De Young, “Classes like Literary Theory and Shakespeare really stretched me academically.”

Others may still be undecided and searching for their niche, creating stress as the time to explore feels past.

What to remember: Classes may be more difficult, but that could also make them more rewarding. If you don’t like the subject matter, it’s not too late to choose a new major or explore other options. Visit your schools Career Development Center to take personality tests and learn more about what major is right for you.

4. I think, therefore I am…who?

Freshman year may allow you to be an extension of your high-school self, but that ends in year two. It’s time to grow and discover who you are and what you’re going to become.

Nothing could be scarier.

I had a lot of expectations coming into the first semester, left over issues from the first year and plenty of fears about what expectations would be for me,” said Rachel Plockmeyer, a 2011 graduate. “It was in this year that my friendships really solidified, and I started really branching out from my ideals to reality. I had to get over the incredible ego that I had when I came in. Definitely a year of growth.”

You don’t have to forget your high-school/freshman self, that’s still a part of who you are, but it’s time to grow on your own. Away from your family and high school friends, what you decide to do and become is up to you.

What to remember: It will take a lifetime to truly discover who you are, so don’t feel the need to cram it all into your college experience, let alone in a single year. Take the experiences as they come and create those relationships that will help you along the way.

5. Look at all of the naive freshmen

It was you a year ago, that scrawny, smooth-faced kid in the cafeteria. Armed with some facial hair, you and your buddies can now head to lunch with under-your-breath snickers at the super-young freshmen that surround you.

I came in as a freshman trying to absorb as much as I could, but sophomore year I began to act like I knew everything, and wasn’t as open,” said senior Michael Simmelink. “That led to problems stemming from arrogance.”

Such a view can make it easy to lose perspective on your situation, halting personal growth and limiting relationships with both under and upper classmen.

What to remember: You don’t know it all. You still have a long way to go and a lot to learn along the way. Don’t forget: even if they look really, really young, you are, too.


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