When I was a sophomore in high school, my Spanish teacher would blame any mistake I made – mispronouncing a word, arriving late to class, fudging my homework – on the mere fact that I was a sophomore.
“You’re in your sophomore slump,” she would remind me, as if my shortcomings in learning a language directly correlated with my second-year status.
But now, as I finish my sophomore year in college and look back at my time as an undergraduate thus far, I finally realize that my teacher might have had a point. Strangely, I didn’t find the clarity I thought I would in college.
Sophomore year is a transitional time. A second-year student is neither just beginning nor almost finished. My position between those landmarks has left me thinking a lot about what it means to be a college student.
But I have more questions now than when I started.
I’ve picked my major, but have I chosen the most marketable one? I love my friends, but what if I had met a different group of people? What if I stuck with my original plan and went to a small liberal arts college in the Pennsylvania cornfields or the New York Catskills?
And sometimes, I question the very questions themselves.
Should I spend so much time reflecting? Isn’t that, in and of itself, a poor use of seconds and minutes?
As college students, we all have high expectations about how our time should be spent. We’ve convinced ourselves that any free minute should be devoted to an internship, and that if we don’t take a full course load, we must have a work-study job. And if we spend a Saturday night doing anything other than drinking at a fraternity party or meeting a potential future spouse at a club, then we’ve wasted a social opportunity.
That’s the conventional wisdom. But because these expectations are so tremendous, it’s quite often that they are never fully achieved.
As a resident of JBKO Hall, I thought that over the course of the year, I’d witness a massive hole in the ground outside my window slowly but surely turn into the largest academic building on campus.
I was apprehensive that loud, early morning construction at the site of the future Science and Engineering Hall would cut my sleep schedule short, but I tried to assuage my concerns, thinking optimistically that at least I would have an interesting perspective on the state of the construction project.
But we all know that only minor visible strides were made. There’s still nothing there but a massive hole in the ground.
Granted, the project isn’t slated for completion until 2015, but my unrealistically high expectations led me to believe there would be more tangible progress. I thought there would be monumental changes I’d be able to observe this year.
High expectations are great, because setting goals is, of course, the first step toward achieving them. But it doesn’t mean that we will get anywhere near mission accomplished. And it certainly doesn’t mean we will walk away from every experience knowing where we’ve been and where we must go next.
So if there’s one thing I’ve learned this April, as I prepare to move from my second year to my third year as an undergraduate, it is to accept that an overflow of questions is okay.
There’s nothing wrong with not quite knowing what remains to be achieved. In fact, not knowing is the norm.
So call it the sophomore slump if you want, but something tells me that these questions will last beyond just one academic year.
Justin Peligri, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.