This is the second of two posts on the phenomenon of sophomore slump, the difficulty that many students experience during their second year of college. In the first post we examined some of the reasons that students may encounter a slump. In this post, we look specifically at some things that parents can do to help their students during this time.
Once our college students complete that tumultuous first year of college, they face their sophomore year and the changes that it brings. As college parents, we can help our sophomore students by realizing that, for many students, the concept of sophomore slump really does exist. Our sophomore students may need just as much support from home, even though that need may be less obvious.
What can parents do to help during this time?
Parents who understand that the difficulties of the second year of college are real can help their college students cope with the emotions they may be feeling and the decisions they will need to face. As always throughout the college years, lots of empathy and encouragement from home helps. Sometimes just listening and being a sounding board may be the most important function for a parent. However, there may be some specific things that parents of sophomores can do to help.
- Prepare your student for the changes which may occur during the second year. Talk to her about the factors we’ve listed in our previous post that may lead to sophomore slump. Although not every student will face all, or even any, of these factors, if your student understands that there may be some issues that will come up during this year, she will be better prepared to deal with them.
- Be especially patient with your student if he is taken by surprise by his feelings and emotions during this year. Help him understand that the reaction is a normal part of the college experience for many students.
- If your student experiences less energy and motivation at times during this year, be patient and understanding. Help her to think about why she may be feeling this way. Is the novelty of college wearing off? Does it seem like a long distance to the end of the road? Is she reacting to the stress of making decisions?
- If your student expresses dissatisfaction with the college and talks about transferring (a common phenomenon during the sophomore year), help him consider carefully whether the dissatisfaction is truly with the school or with where he is right now either emotionally, socially, or academically. Would things really be different somewhere else? (If your student does decide to transfer, you can help with that process, but after careful consideration he may realize that a change of school may not be necessary, and that staying put will be the best thing.)
- Help your student think about the positives of being in her second year. She knows her way around campus, she has made new friends, she may be beginning to make connections to faculty members she admires, she may have leadership opportunities (class officer, residence assistant, orientation leader, campus tour guide, club officer, tutor), she may have access to better work-study or other campus jobs, she may be taking more courses in her major field-of-study.
- Remind your student about things that she can do proactively to combat the slump she may be feeling. Encourage her to take care of herself physically, to talk to her advisor, to take a class just for fun, to get involved in some extracurricular activities she may have bypassed last year, to visit the career office for information and inspiration, to engage in community service activities, to take advantage of the skills that she learned during her first year.
Not every student will experience difficulty during the sophomore year, but many students will. Simply knowing that it is a normal stage and that they are not alone may help. As with the first-year transition, parents can help students adjust to and deal with the difficulties that may occur. Most students emerge from this year more mature, more focused, and more comfortable with themselves and their college experience.