Avoiding the Sophomore Slump

Why the second year of college is often the most psychologically demanding.

By Mattie Winowitch, Waynesburg University


I’ve struggled with anxiety for my entire life.

I remember being in elementary school, going to the nurse at least once or twice a week with a pounding heart, feeling like I was looking down at myself from the ceiling. I thought I was dying. But, my mom sat me down and told me I was having anxiety attacks. She said anxiety ran in our family, and that I had to learn to live with it. So I did.

I never went to therapy or a counselor. I struggled through the first ten years of my life, but eventually, I grew out of it. That is, until now.

I’ll be turning twenty this year, and I’m in my second year of college. For some reason, my anxiety is back in full force. But, what I’m slowly realizing is that I’m not alone.

Image via CC Review

Whether you want to admit it or not, college students are under a lot of pressure. For some strange reason, people often make fun of students today for being too soft or sensitive. I think, for the first time, people are actually being open about their mental health.

But, for those who are truly suffering, sometimes being open is harder than you’d think. Lately, “pretending” you have anxiety or other mental illnesses is known as “cool” or “chic.”

But for Raven Martin, a sophomore at California University of Pennsylvania, there’s nothing “cool” or “chic” about anxiety and depression, as they have caused her a lot of problems in her life. Today, she says she wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

“Being a college student with anxiety and a mental illness is hard,” says Martin. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. There will be days you just don’t want to get out of bed, but you have to, because you’re not just doing school for you. College is tough enough without adding in fighting your own mind, but, with a lot of hard work and determination, you’ll make it through”

Anxiety can’t necessarily be assigned to a particular age or year, either. Freshmen and sophomores can be just as stressed as juniors and seniors. However, I’ve noticed that sophomore year in particular can take a toll on the student.

First, it’s the year after freshman year, so the novelty of college has almost completely worn off. And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, eventually you’ll start to question your value as a human being and whether or not your major is right for you, and boom, the “Sophomore Slump” has commenced.

The “Sophomore Slump” is a legitimate problem that compels a lot of students drop out or take a break after their second year. There are a lot of decisions to be made when you’re a sophomore. And, if you get into a slump, anxiety is bound to follow shortly after.

For sophomore student Maddie Hill, anxiety eventually caused her to leave her campus at Marietta College in Ohio to come home and study at community college back in Pennsylvania. What she thought was the best possible opportunity for her ended up making her crazy.

“I originally chose to attend a small private college, thinking the small class sizes and more one-on-one time with my professors would greatly benefit me,” says Hill. “What I found instead was that those small class sizes meant constant competition inside and outside of the classroom.”

Hill’s experiences aligned almost spot-on with the definition of the “Sophomore Slump.”

“I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I had begun to look inside myself and pick myself apart, as if I truly was not good enough to be there intellectually or socially,” says Hill.

“Eventually I ate myself up enough internally and stopped everything. I stopped talking to my friends, I stopped going out on the weekends, I stopped making good grades, I stopped being happy…you get the picture,” she says.

And, just like so many slumped sophomores before her, Hill’s anxiety got the best of her. But now, she’s planning on getting back on track.

“My anxiety held me back more in the last two years than it ever has before. I’ve since withdrawn from my original small private college, I’ve changed my major and I’m going to be attending a much larger university this coming fall. Just knowing I didn’t have to return this semester felt like the world lifted off of my shoulders. I’m hoping a fresh start at a new school will be a much more positive experience,” she says.

For Veronica Steen, a sophomore at Waynesburg University, anxiety has been a part of her life since her teen years. Having college on top of that has only made it harder.

“I mean, in most instances dealing with anxiety in a college setting gets difficult, because you can have either really good days where you feel on top of the world, or you have a really bad day where absolutely everything goes wrong and you want to be alone,” Steen says.

Another layer that goes into having anxiety at college is being far away from home. Steen is originally from New Jersey, so when she’s at college, she’s almost six hours away from her family.

“I know for me, if I’m having a lot of anxiety, I just want to be home, but because of the distance, it’s not physically possible,” says Steen.

If you or a friend is struggling with severe anxiety, depression or the “Sophomore Slump,” talk to someone. Talk to a counselor, a friend, a family member, anyone who will openly listen. And, as always, if you are ever considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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