At the beginning of the semester, I was a woman on a mission. I resolved that by May, I would have everything figured out: My major(s) would be decided, my study-abroad plans settled and my GPA reminiscent of high-school glory days.
Instead of sticking to the standard name-year-college-major introduction during the first seminars and sections of the semester, I explained that I was a former hardcore economics major turned thwarted and disillusioned something-in-the-humanities major. (Maybe.) This was my soul-searching semester, and I would emerge victorious.
As the semester went on, I received “constructive criticism” in the form of various tests and paper grades. Classes were dropped, Cr/D/Fails were switched, doors began to close on possible majors. But I could still defer any substantial commitments.
Considering my options, I made appointments during the vacation to speak with the IEFP office and various directors of undergraduate studies. The marbles in my option jar dwindled. My horizons for study abroad appeared limited by language and financial constraints. Certain majors rang unfavorable due to lack of previous coursework or requirements.
With a handful of likely futures in tow, I ambled over to 451 College St. for my last appointment with the DUS of the Department of Religious Studies. The meeting was delightful — we discovered that we shared a high-school alma mater and that he and my father graduated in the same year. It was an entirely positive experience. Though I was still undecided, doors seemed finally to be opening.
An hour later, I emerged from the office and walked past the elevator. Since I’d been sitting all afternoon, it felt appropriate to take the stairs. I thoughtlessly threw open the metal door at the end of the hall and trotted down the grey stairwell to my triumphant exit, ready to seize the wealth of possibilities before me.
When I reached the bottom of the stairs, the door refused to open. This seemed odd to me. It was a fire exit. I walked up the stairs to exit the way I had entered, but that door also would not open. In fact, none of the doors would.
I pondered the irony of the situation. Just when I thought the doors of my future were opening, I seemed unable to physically open any doors — and, by metaphorical extension, continue on into the future. What a sick joke! First, dangle the promise of a brighter tomorrow before me, then lock me in a little room with one window so that all I can do is sit and watch the minibus go by. Thirty minutes later, after trying the doors once more, I called in reinforcements from Swing Space to come retrieve me.
Days later, in my spring-term consultation meeting, I recounted this story to my faculty advisor and suggested that it may have been a sign that religious studies was not the best route for me. I considered the alternative options aloud: Economics? Religious Studies? English? Semester off? Summer classes? Accelerate? Where is my life going? Confused! Frustrated! Discouraged!
She sighed, then tilted her head to the left. “Have you ever heard of the term, ‘sophomore slump?’ ”
Had I fallen into “the slump” without even realizing it? How? I’m two weeks away from being a junior!
Further investigation was necessary. (But Wikipedia proved unhelpful.) Eventually, I came across a PDF from Muhlenberg College with a description and questions with which those in the throngs of “the slump” might identify. I answered “yes” to 10 out of the 13.
The section concluded, “If you find yourself answering yes to three or more of these questions, you could be suffering from the sophomore slump.”
I read on. There were countless college-newspaper articles about the reality of the sophomore slump, psychology journal articles pinpointing the causes and Powerpoint presentations offering solutions. They all mentioned “developmental confusion” and the inability to obtain formerly possessed resources and opportunities.
Like the ability to remain “undeclared” forever? To regard study abroad as something you have time to think about later? To believe you have a host of additional summers to explore internship opportunities?
“I see your choices like pieces of a puzzle,” my advisor said as we walked from her office toward Phelps Gate, Old Campus teeming with freshmen and upperclassmen sunbathing, reading, playing ultimate Frisbee. “…You just have to fit them together.”
She used the term “luminous” to describe the way she felt about the choices I had before me. The word stuck on my walk back to Swing.
The decisions I have to make are big, but they are exciting. I’m not even close to putting the pieces of my puzzle together, and I might have to force some to fit. Sure, I’m a little more confined than I was before — doors have closed — but I’m by no means locked into any specific course. I’ve got some soul-searching to do, but slumping — I’ll have none of that.
Kristen Ng is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.