Stanford combats sophomore slump

Oct. 20, 2011, 1:59 a.m.

While the Sophomore Celebration has been a tradition at Stanford for the past 12 years, an increasing number of universities across the nation are beginning to hold similar ceremonies for their second-year students in an effort to combat the “sophomore slump.”

Sophomore slump is a phenomenon in which students in their second year of college struggle academically compared to their freshman year. Nearly one quarter of all sophomore college students are affected by the slump, according to a study by higher education professor Laurie Schreiner at Azusa Pacific University.

While opinion remains divided on the extent to which the slump phenomenon prevails at Stanford, most sophomores noted a significant transition between campus life in their freshman and sophomore years.

“Sophomore slump is an actual thing because people go from their excited freshman dorms with open doors . . . to sophomore dorms or upper-class dorms,” said Eric Yurko ’13. “You’re with your friends, but so is everyone else. They’re not really super interested in making friends.”

Sophomore Celebration was the first event in a planned series of sophomore-oriented occasions and was attended by approximately half of the Class of 2014. Co-President Dhruv Amin noted that this year’s sophomore class government sought to expand the programming available to the Class of 2014 in order to combat the slump.

According to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) director Dr. Ron Albucher, sophomore usage of university counseling services does increase compared to freshman year. However, Dr. Albucher indicated that this increase is not related to the sophomore slump, nor the transition between freshman and sophomore year.

Academically too, the change can be abrupt. In particular, sophomores who may have pursued a preconceived career trajectory throughout their time at university may begin to question their commitment to their chosen subject as the time to decide their major approaches, according to several academic directors interviewed for this article. Kristin Black, Academic Director for Toyon, Crothers and Branner, also noted that since “all parts of life [at Stanford] are connected,” academic and social problems alike can spread to other parts of students’ lives.

“One possibility as to why [sophomore slump] is occurring is that a large number of Stanford students do an assortment of activities in high school that have nothing to do with what they are actually interested in, so when they arrive, they may fall into a similar pattern until they realize Stanford is no longer high school,” said Michael Silverman ’13.

The student government has sought to maintain and expand the academic support system available to sophomores, offering an Academic Advising Initiative to promote advisor interaction with seniors as well as alumni mentoring programs through the Career Development Center. iDeclare week, scheduled for winter quarter, offers extensive advice for sophomores on distinguishing between majors, exploring their academic preferences and then choosing and declaring a major.

Students also noted the positive aspects of sophomore year. Koren Bakkegard, associate dean of undergraduate advising and research, linked the increased emphasis on class unity — through the 2002 creation of the Freshman Dean’s Office and the introduction of the Sophomore Celebration — to a stronger class spirit that is increasingly evident in alumni activity.

“In my opinion, I feel like the sophomore slump is something that affects people who don’t make the effort to meet other people,” said Tyler Woods ’14. “Yes, work may be harder and you’re stressed with finding a major and getting better grades, but I don’t think people should lose sight of the fact that other things matter in college as well.”



Marshall Watkins is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily, having previously worked as the paper's executive editor and as the managing editor of news. Marshall is a junior from London majoring in Economics, and can be reached at mtwatkins "at" stanford "dot" edu.

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