The second year

Sophomore slump: This term is often used to characterize second-year students and the challenges and issues they face. Not all second-year students experience this phenomenon, but for those who do, it is comforting to know they are  not the only ones.

During the first year of college, everything about the experience feels new and exciting. Students are learning to adapt to their new environment, meet new people, and adjust to the rigor of college courses. By comparison, the second year is a bit less novel, but it offers the opportunity for a fresh start. In the best scenario, second-year students have a better sense of the college experience and their own skills, interests, and abilities. Ideally, they will feel more confident about their path and are taking full advantage of all that the University has to offer.

On the other hand, students may experience times when they are in the sophomore slump. Compared to their first year, students may feel less hopeful, less engaged, and perhaps less confident in their skills to be successful. Students are under increased pressure to figure out their major and career plans, and they often question what they want out of their overall college experience. For students who move out of university housing, an added level of independence and responsibility related to living on their own provides additional challenges.

The transition to the second year doesn’t suddenly begin when students return to school for their sophomore year. It starts as early as the second semester of the first year. During spring semester of freshman year, students are making decisions about their living arrangements for the next year, registering for fall classes, and applying for leadership opportunities, study abroad, or campus jobs. All of these opportunities lay an important foundation for a successful second year.

Recognizing that the second year comes with its own unique challenges, the University of Minnesota is responding with a variety of initiatives to provide additional support and resources. The Office of Undergraduate Education, in collaboration with colleges and departments across campus, has begun to address the needs of second-year students to ensure their success.

Over the next year, the University will target specific messages to second-year students highlighting useful resources, programs, and opportunities.

A recently launched webpage provides an overview of the second-year experience, and social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter will keep students informed along the way. Starting this fall, a Second Year Experience living-learning community will be available for up to 80 students in the new 17th Avenue Residence Hall.

To guide the ongoing development of this initiative, the University has created a campus-wide Second Year Experience Advisory Committee to continue to identify and address the needs of second-year students. A similar advisory committee consisting of current second-year students provides a student perspective to this work while offering support and leadership opportunities for participating students. Although the second year offers unique challenges, the University is committed to finding ways to deliver support and assistance as students move through their college journey.

Students studying in sunny space.Second-year students find a sunny space to study between classes.

The sophomore slump: What can parents do?

  • Let your son or daughter know that it is normal for students to feel some anxiety during their second year about major and career decisions, to struggle with motivation, or to experience less satisfaction with college. Just knowing they are not alone may help.
  • Encourage your student to find and use campus resources that may help with major/career decisions or talk to someone about their struggles.
  • Offer suggestions on ways to get involved on campus. Being active and meeting new people can help get students back on track.
  • Most importantly, listen. You may hear the process of your student developing their own voice and sense of life purpose.