The sophomore slump
The Thanksgiving funk that can happen to college sophomores is not a myth.
I can remember standing in my dorm room, punching the long-distance credit card number into the phone, watching leaves twirl in the brisk, late, fall winds.
Someone pick up.
It was almost Thanksgiving break. Tennis season had ended, my classes were escalating towards finals, and all I wanted was a home-cooked meal - and to talk to my mom.
I never realized what those calls probably did to her, but now, I do.
There's nothing I love more than a text at 10:00 pm from my son, who is 5 hours away. I am not a 10:00 pm person. OK, let's face it, I'm not even an 8:00 at night person. My boys know that if they want a coherent conversation with me, all discussions must take place before dinner.
The phone lit up. Can you talk? I called him immediately.
His voice was full of exhaustion and angst. He spoke in circles about calculus, business management; the words ran into each other. "What's wrong?" I asked. He was up to his eyeballs in Kant's philosophy of morality (yes, I heard all about it). The largest dorm (I had ever seen) shrunk in size over the semester and six people in the space, suddenly seemed like he was always in a crowd.
It was a lot.
I could feel the doubt in each syllable, and my mind swirled with possible answers.
He rifled questions at me through the phone, is this the right major? Can you make stuffed shells when I come home? Is this the right school? What's the dog doing? Send me a picture of the dog. Should I study abroad?
He was spiraling. On this late Fall evening, when the snow had yet to hit the city five hours South of home, he was experiencing the sophomore slump, or as I like to call it, the Thanksgiving funk.
According to College Magazine, the University of Central Arkansas' website claims that "the sophomore slump can be defined as a period of developmental confusion"(collegemagazine.com).
The excitement and "newness" of college has worn off by this time sophomore year. The professors no longer look at you as a student transitioning from high school; they aren't cutting you any slack. If you were fortunate (or not depending on how you view things) to breeze through high school without cracking a book, this could be that moment in your life when you look with a wide-eyed stare at the workload in front of you and start to feel the flu coming on.
Dr. Dana Dunn states that the sophomore slump can also be looked at as a decline academically. Although this can happen at any time during college, it is typically during the second year that students can become overwhelmed or distracted (psychologytoday.com).
We task our sophomore students with the structured plan that they MUST know what they are doing with the rest of their lives by the end of this second year. We say it in no uncertain terms - you will declare your major - or be forced to pay for subsequent semesters, the (costly)dreaded 5th year -- which eats into your precious time of being an adult. I hope you are catching my sarcasm.
Since when do 19 year old's have it all going on? Wait - since when do 49 year old's have it all together?
But, when your college-student calls way past your bedtime and needs good advice - what should we say?
The University of Arkansas article suggests that "you recognize everything you have already accomplished, like surviving freshman year - then, try something new"(collegemagazine.com). The best advice I gathered from this essay is to encourage students to recognize the slump and don't let it take over.
Which, as we midlifers know - can be an easy thing to have happen. One thought turns into two, which turns into two hundred, and before you know it, you're sitting in bed taking selfies of yourself and the dog (just check out my Instagram).
Dunn takes a more parental or scholarly approach to his non-emotional definition of the slump. He suggests that students who are struggling in classes take a more proactive approach to studying. Such advice includes study weeks in advance, sit in the front of the classroom, use a tutor if necessary, don't rely on all-nighters, don't take weekends off -- you know, all the things that parents have been telling their students for years (psychologytoday.com).
Having not researched the sophomore slump before my son's call (I mean, I'm good, but I'm not that good), I did my best to dissuade his concerns. I reassured him. I know how much he loves his school, his classes, and what he's doing. I reminded him of our phone conversation last month when everything was great. (take it back!) By the end of our much-too-long, much-too-tired conversation, he was rising from the slump and couldn't wait to go to bed, because he was exhausted.
Thanks a ton, babe! UP. ALL. NIGHT!
I lay there well past midnight, my mind returning to that day in the dorm room. What had my mom said when I was on the brink of tears? When I doubted my English degree, wishing to wrap up in my floral comforter in bed -- at home -- instead of heading to my literary criticism and critical theory class. She reminded me of my successes, dissuaded my fears. She told me that I would be home in a few days. And I, too, managed to pump myself up from the sophomore slump, the Thanksgiving funk.
My son is feeling significantly better after spending the weekend with a friend from high school. A change of scenery did wonders for his psyche. Now - to argue the morality of categorical imperatives with a renewed sense of drive. (whatever that means!)
As a side note: I cleared this article with my son :) And, in the days that followed this event, I reached out to a few of my close friends (my got your back girls), the ones that won't judge my son or me - and many of their children were experiencing similar moments this past week.
Love and Luck,
Good luck to all those college kids preparing for finals. They will be home soon for the holiday break - it will be amazing! (for a week. LOL)
Let me know that I'm not alone in this -- any sophomore slump experiences out there?
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