University of Wisconsin–Madison

Second Year: Beating the Sophomore Slump

It’s often called the “sophomore slump” — a time when students lose momentum and motivation.

But just as every student doesn’t have to gain the “freshman 15,” not every second-year student has to lose progress after the first year of college.

As a parent or family member, you can feel good knowing that your student has made it through the first year, which has been a huge adjustment not only for your student, but also for your entire family. Remember, though, that your sophomore student is still in transition, which is not only OK, but also is healthy.

New students usually receive a lot of support, from orientation and numerous reminders about resources on campus. When first-year programming ends, however, students can feel disconnected from campus.

Second-year students can take advantage of opportunities that would not have been possible during their first year. The first-year challenges of figuring out where classes are, how to make friends, and learning to live away from home have been completed. By their second year, students might feel the added pressure of not having the built-in excuse of being first-year students. They start to think more seriously about their majors, possible leadership roles, and their relationships.

Sophomore year is a time for students to do more focused exploring than they did during freshman year. They are often more prepared to get involved with campus organizations, a step that will help them make new friends and give them leadership experience.

You can remind your student to take advantage of speaking with career counselors and academic advisors, and make important connections with faculty members who may be able to help as your student decides on a field of study.

You can help beat the sophomore slump by offering encouragement as your student builds confidence and by providing advice when asked. Continue sending care packages from home and reminding your student of your support.

Acknowledge that second-year students are still figuring out where they fit in socially and academically. But your student can learn from previous experiences and look forward to what’s next, leaving the sophomore slump behind.

Tips for Parents and Families

  • Don’t be surprised if your student doesn’t have everything figured out. Be reassuring: your student has the tools and experiences to be successful.
  • Remind your student about available campus resources, such as academic support and campus health services.
  • Ask your student about relationships formed through out-of-class learning opportunities and with faculty and staff members.