Everyone warns of the “Sophomore Slump,” the idea that after your freshman year - a year of beginnings, constant administrative support, new friends in a new place, and all the excitement that comes with finally being a cool college student - your sophomore year is doomed to seem lesser. Some students begin their second year of college already defeated, as if there is no way it could ever compete with the whirlwind of freshman year.
There is of course some truth in that way of thinking. When I returned to Yale this past August, I walked through Old Campus with my luggage, just like I had done a year ago. There was not the same sense of wonder that had captured me as a freshman. Instead, I felt a mix of nostalgia, excitement, and the comforting feeling of returning home.
My first few days followed a similar pattern. Seeing all my friends again after our summer break was not as exciting as meeting hundreds of my new classmates during orientation week last year, but it did help me to see how many Yalies I had grown close to over the course of my first? year. As I scrolled through the Blue Book (our course catalog), I spent less time obsessing over the crazy long list of classes. Instead, I spent more time choosing classes for my major and finding advanced courses that I was excited about taking. After two semesters, I had a much better sense of which classes I would enjoy and succeed in, and which classes would lead to more than enough all-nighters.
This is me attempting to dress up for the Ezra Stiles Gala! It was also during midterms, so I should have predicted the all-nighter that followed, oops.
I realized very quickly that if you enter your sophomore year expecting the same overwhelming freshman year experience, you will be disappointed. It sounds obvious, but sophomore year is not freshman year. It cannot be, nor should it be. However, instead of lamenting the loss of freshman excitement, I have focused instead on seeing all of the positives that make my sophomore year unique and worthwhile.
Another positive of sophomore year is living in your residential colleges! And you get to choose your roommate and suitemates. How magical.
With an entire year under my belt, I feel more ready than ever to tackle all of the challenges, expected and otherwise, that are guaranteed to come my way over the next ten months. I start this year already with an amazing group of friends, a much more concrete plan for myself academically, and an exciting mix of extracurriculars. The looming threat of adulthood is still off in the distance and the possibility of poor grades, failed classes, missed exams, or changes in my major have (hopefully) dropped considerably now that I have two semesters of Yale academics to look back on.
Hence, the Sophomore Slope.*
After learning from all of my successes and failures of freshman year, my expectations of Yale and of myself have changed dramatically. I left extracurriculars that I was only doing for my resume and joined a dance group that is both good exercise and a ton of fun. I am pushing myself to spend more time with friends and get more involved with groups on campus that I care about. Now that I am more comfortable in the Yale classroom, I am allowing myself to not stress about grades or which major will get me the best job after graduation. Because I already have my footing, the only place to go is up.
* Yes, slopes can be negative, but we’re trying to look at the glass half full here.