How to Beat the Sophomore Slump in High School
If freshman year of high school is a time of excitement, transition, and growth, what is sophomore year of high school? This might sound like the start of a bad joke, but it’s a reality to many students who struggle to stay motivated beyond freshman year.
In fact, there’s a name for this reticence: The Sophomore Slump. In this post, we’ll describe what the sophomore slump generally looks like and what causes it; then we’ll outline how you can overcome the sophomore slump even if you’re already in its grasp.
What Is the Sophomore Slump?
The sophomore slump is generally a period of being underwhelmed or even bored by high school during your sophomore year. The newness of freshman year has worn off. While you started ninth grade feeling like you had a world of possibilities before you, maybe you are a bit more jaded now and have a more realistic perspective of what’s an option and what isn’t. In short, you’ve fallen into a routine that’s generally unexciting, and with three years of high school spanning before you, you maybe don’t see much to get excited about in the immediate future.
To all of this you might also add some nervousness related to impending tests. Soon you may be taking AP tests, PSATs, and ACTs or SATs. Because these are all new to you, you might not have any idea of where to get started preparing for them, which can be an intimidating prospect.
If you’re a sophomore who feels unenthusiastic about high school, like you’re just stuck in a rut and miss the excitement that came from being a freshman, you could be experiencing the sophomore slump. But never fear. You might be experiencing the sophomore slump, but there are plenty of ways to beat it.
Know the Cause
The sophomore slump is a generic term referring to a lack of initiative and motivation that occurs during the sophomore year, but it doesn’t refer to a specific cause. Instead, the culprits are often varied and unique for each student.
It can help to get serious about identifying the personal causes behind your sophomore slump. Take some time to reflect on your unique situation and feelings. Try to figure out what’s causing you to feel the way you are. Are you bored with class? Are you uninspired by your extracurriculars? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels?
For some students, the sophomore slump is simple exhaustion from your transition to a new school. While the excitement of freshman year was enough to keep you moving forward initially, by sophomore year you’re just plain tired of socializing and forging new relationships with so many teachers and peers, in addition to keeping up with all your other commitments. Put simply, you’re tired.
For other students, you might just feel stagnant. Maybe you’ve been working through the same course track with the same peers, participating in the same activities, and the routine has jaded you. Sometimes, you need to change things up in order to grow and move forward.
In rarer cases, the sophomore slump could be a sign of something more serious. If you find yourself worrying obsessively, experiencing physical symptoms, or having thoughts about self-harm, you should discuss these feelings immediately with a counselor or parent.
Talk to Your Parents
Even if you aren’t having thoughts about self-harm or other serious concerns, you should still talk to your parents if you’re experiencing some degree of the sophomore slump. In fact, anytime that you experience a sudden or sustained change in your behavior or feelings, you should be open to discussing this with a parent, counselor, or teacher. There are lots of people who care about you and want to help—you just have to give them the chance to do so.
Use Your High School’s Resources
Odds are, you are not experiencing anything out of the realm of normal and the counselors, teachers, and administrators at your school have probably seen all this and a whole lot more already. You should reach out and take advantage of their expertise.
Counselors might be able to refer you to written materials or websites with valuable resources for you. They may also be able to talk you through some of what you’re feeling and help to offer insight and perspective to your situation. Make an appointment as soon as you realize that you’re not feeling yourself so that you can refocus your energy quickly to get back on track.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve met with your guidance counselor, a teacher, or a trusted mentor, use their insights to help form a plan. Set long term goals and then work backwards from them to set smaller, more achievable short term goals.
For example, if you want to make varsity basketball next year, you might challenge yourself to spend thirty minutes at the gym three times a week and to join a winter league at the community center. Setting achievable goals for the near future will help you to refocus on what’s important and provide some direction for your long term future.
Don’t Obsess Too Much About Your Grades
Sometimes, if you’re in the sophomore slump, your grades will slip due to your lack of motivation and initiative. Then, you might panic so much about your grades slipping that you actually end up falling further behind rather than actually making discernible progress in the right direction.
It’s important to keep perspective. In the long run, your grades aren’t nearly as important as your mental health. Take care of yourself first, and then worry about your grades. Sometimes, if you explain the situation to a teacher, he or she might let you make up missed work, retake a test, or complete extra credit to help get your grades back up.
Also keep in mind that many colleges are understanding about lower grades during freshman and sophomore year, and even if the college you want to attend scrutinizes your grades from every year, you will always have the chance to explain a sophomore slip in an essay or interview. It’s always best to frame these mishaps as learning experiences, focusing on the skills you developed as a result rather than on the misstep itself.
After sophomore year, you’ll still have time to raise your GPA as a junior and senior, and colleges generally do look favorably upon an upward grade trend. Double down on your efforts to boost your grades as soon as you can and you could be back on the track to success. See our post about upward grade trends to learn more.
While it can be frustrating to lose your momentum after freshman year, the sophomore slump is not unique to you, and there are plenty of ways to tackle it gracefully. If you feel like you need some outside help refocusing and establishing a path towards your future, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
For more information about sophomore year, see these posts:
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.