Steven Blum: Help bump the slump

If you’re a sophomore at GW and you love your life, stop reading this. For the time being, I’m going to pretend you don’t exist.

If you feel lost, disillusioned, diarrheic, etc., however, please know that you’re not alone. You’re probably experiencing what is commonly referred to as the “sophomore slump,” and it’s about time the University recognized how widespread it is.

John Dages, the associate director of the University Counseling center, said more sophomores seek treatment at the University Counseling Center than any other class of students. Why? Unlike freshmen, sophomores are expected to know how things work. There is less of a support structure set up to keep us from falling through the cracks. Instead of receiving the guidance we experienced freshman year, we are pressed to declare a major, find an internship and decide whether we want to risk infections in a possibly life-altering trip to Africa or get down and drunk with American students in Barcelona.

Many of the decisions sophomores make and the challenges they face are also based on deeper personal changes. Many may feel unsatisfied with the career choice they thought they wanted, or feel pressure from parents to make the most of your college life. Sometimes, worst of all, some second-year students just wake up from a drunken freshman haze and realize that they have nothing in common with their friends.

While the University has created a plan of action for sophomores, it is a bit bizarre. For example, GW Housing Programs should ditch the passport program, which gives a “passport” to second-year students and encourages them to go to events. Many students have more pressing concerns that this system, which seems like a childish throwback to a family vacation to Epcot.

What we sophomores really need is better advising, since one of the big sources of pressure comes from trying to plan out the rest of our time at GW. House Scholars in sophomore dorms are nice, but they are too young to have a perspective on life after college. We need advisers who know our names and interests. A 10-minute walk-in consultation with an overloaded adviser left me feeling even more lost than I did when I first came in. As this is the time when many of us choose our majors, advisers should play more of a role in our sophomore year, not less.

Since the size of GW seriously constrains the role of the adviser, why not hold a weeklong “choosing your major” workshop geared specifically toward sophomores? At such a meeting, department heads could come together with advisers and answer questions from prospective majors. It’s nice that we have a similar program for freshmen – the advising workshop – but our first year here is usually spent filling up GCRs. Sophomore year is the year we really need adequate guidance.

Aside from advising, there are mental health initiatives that would help students experiencing sophomore slump. At the University Counseling Center, there is a group counseling program called “Finding Your Niche.” The counseling center could reach a wider section of the sophomore population by holding this group meeting in a non-clinical setting closer to where second-year students live. More outreach money could easily help facilitate this.

It is also nice to know that there is a hotline students can call to talk to a trained professional, but calling the service a “crisis line” discourages students from calling unless they are in a dire situation. Instead, the phone number should be called a community resource line and advertising should stress that it is open to students who wish to talk about anything, from procrastination to body image. This would encourage people to talk about their problems before they reach a crisis-level and would de-stigmatize the entire experience.

Ultimately, sophomores also need to relax a little, even if these changes are not implemented. Remember that the world will not end today if you fail to find an internship. Sophomore year may be tough for a lot of people, but if we work together with GW Housing Programs, the University Counseling Center and the Career Center, we can help to ensure that no one falls through the cracks.

-The writer is a sophomore majoring in anthropology.

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