Colleges Try To Tackle The Sophomore Slump

October 5, 2011

Bored college studentA number of institutions have created programs to combat the "sophomore slump"--when second-year students experience boredom and apathy at college because the newness has worn off.

At Duke University, for example, sophomores gathered last month for the first-ever Sophomore Convocation, a ceremony which aimed to address the impact of the sophomore slump.

"It is often said that sophomore year is the toughest because students no longer feel motivated," noted Duke's Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek at the ceremony, as reported by the Duke Chronicle. "Our job [as administrators] is to give more respect to the notion of sophomore slump and to [make certain] that you take advantage of your Duke experience, because it doesn't last forever."

Stephen Nowicki, Duke's dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, agreed. "The sophomore year is a time of transition, where students sometimes do feel like they're in a slump," he was quoted as saying by Inside Higher Ed. "They're not yet necessarily deeply on their track towards whatever their path is, but they're no longer in that special moment of being the first-year class whom everybody dotes on."

Retention is not a major problem at Duke, but other institutions have blamed the sophomore slump for rising attrition rates. Inside Higher Ed noted that according to the University of South Carolina Research Center's 2008 National Survey of Sophomore Year Initiatives, almost 66 percent of colleges that start sophomore programs such as Duke's convocation do so to improve retention.

According to research conducted by Laurie Schreiner, a professor and chair of doctoral programs in higher education at Azusa Pacific University, about 20 to 25 percent of second-year students experience sophomore slump.

"Slumping's a motivational, emotional experience," she told Inside Higher Ed. "They're not feeling that connection in their second year that they felt in the first year... I think that has dramatic implications for us as we think about wanting our students to really thrive in college--not just to graduate but to get the most out of their experience."

Other colleges have taken steps to battle the slump as well. Stanford University has been holding a ceremony similar to Duke's for over a decade, and Haverford College in Pennsylvania has a Web page which specifically addresses the challenges that sophomores face. "It is a year of transitions and, for some, dislocation," the Web page notes. "Many students state that they feel at sea or a bit off-center."

In a related article, U.S. News & World Report offered a number of suggestions for helping sophomores avoid the slump: Students should consider joining a new club, taking a new class for fun, volunteering, learning to play a new instrument, or possibly studying abroad. Such activities, noted U.S. News, can be ways "to ensure the sophomore slump doesn't ruin all you worked for during your first year."

Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman


"Class of 2014 Gathers for Inaugural Sophomore Convocation Ceremony,", September 14, 2011, Andrew Karim

"Dump the Slump,", September 29, 2011, Allie Grasgreen

"7 Ways to Slip Through the Sophomore Slump,", September 30, 2011, Kelci Lynn Lucier

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