Having realistic expectations can alleviate the challenge of the 'sophmore slump'

Siobhan Murray

Staff Writer

I came back to my hometown of Somerville, Mass. this past winter break to find that three of my best friends had dropped out of college–one was transferring, one will be taking a semester off and one was just done. After talking with them I realized that we had all experienced, to some degree, the so-called “sophomore slump.” Following the opening-your-eyes-for-the-first-time experience of my first year, we all started to fear that college wasn’t going to be the best four years of our lives, as we had been promised. Classes were hard. Parties weren’t always fun. The process of picking a major seemed like an arbitrary check-of-the-box and sleepless nights spent studying didn’t seem to stir up much more than penciling in the correct Scantron bubbles the next morning.

And it turns out, universities are experiencing similar soul-searching. In a recent open letter, Purdue University’s new president Mitch Daniels outlined several criticisms of higher education and voiced his concern over priorities in today’s college campuses.

“College costs too much and delivers too little. Students are leaving, when they graduate at all, with loads of debt but without evidence that they grew much in either knowledge or critical thinking,” Daniels said. “Administrative costs, splurging on ‘resort’ amenities, and an obsession with expensive capital projects have run up the cost to students without enhancing the value of the education they receive. Rigor has weakened. Grade inflation has drained the meaning from grade point averages … Diversity is prized except in the most important realm of all, diversity of thought. The academies that, through the unique system of tenure, once enshrined freedom of opinion and inquiry now frequently are home to the narrowest sort of closed-mindedness and the worst repression of dissident ideas.”

I agree with Daniel’s criticisms–the system has problems too. But we’re here. What are we supposed to do while we are here? How can we get the value we deserve out of our college education? I’m still not sure. But I did think about it quite a bit while fighting the flu over winter break. For the moment, here is my plan for surviving the sophomore slump.

1. I’ll start figuring out my niche–the friends I can depend on, the professors I can learn from, the study spots that work and the orders on the Bison menu that I won’t get sick of.

2. I’ll worry less about grades, knowing that a GPA encompasses effort and intelligence but also how late you were out the Wednesday night before an exam, the number of friends in your classroom distracting you from focusing on every lecture, how monotonous the professor’s voice was, the hours you worked that week at your campus job and how much you actually liked what you were learning.

3. I’ll listen to all that advice that says pick some extra-curricular activities you love doing and stick with them.

4. I’ll accept the ups and downs, pros and cons of these four years here, knowing that difficult classes, sleepless nights, lab course requirements, student parking fees and watery cafeteria coffee also come with approachable professors, House Party weekend, a gym open until 1 a.m. and good people.

5. I’ll trust that the University is doing its best to keep us around just a little bit longer, or at least until we figure out that rules are usually just well-intended suggestions.

My friends at home made me understand that college isn’t for everyone, but this year has also taught me that going to college gives many people the best shot at getting a job they like, meeting a diverse range of people and figuring out what they’re passionate about. I’m okay with the idea that the “Bucknell Bubble” won’t always shield us from whatever life throws at us. And I plan to stick around until I walk through the Christy Mathewson gate one more time.

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