ILLUSTRATION OF SOPHOMORE STUDDENT EXPERIENCING SYMPTOMS OF THE MID-COLLEGE CRISIS.
ARTWORK CREDITS: CAROLINE MCNALLY
Story by Lilly Pandis
Freshman year couldn’t have been more of a blast for Arielle Berger. As an undeclared student she was convinced everything would fall into place sooner rather than later.
But the end of sophomore year struck her with a crisis. Suddenly the fun and games were over and it was time to get serious.
“I realized that I still didn’t know what I wanted to major in or whether I was even heading in the right direction,” said Berger.
"One thing about college," said Chapman Dean of Students Jerry Price, "Is that there’s an 18-23 year old span of young adults who are going through different changes and developments and it happens together with friends and can sometimes be an overwhelming experience."
There is no doubt that the jump from sophomore to junior year in college is a scary transition. Suddenly students realize that they are halfway done with college and find themselves reexamining their lives.
Price explained this phase that many students have termed, “the mid-college crisis”.
“There’s a transition from college being this new exciting thing, where students are exploring new people and such and at some point it transitions to more serious business,” he said.
Students have to start making preparations for upper division classes, internships, getting field experience, developing relationships with faculty and working on post college plans.
“Those students who have only enjoyed the fun part of college kind of get unnerved by the reality of what’s coming next and need to prep for it,” said Price.
Students unsure of their future career plans notice this more than others.
Berger, now a sophomore strategic and corporate communications major, has noticed this struggle within her academic career.
“It’s hard to know what I want to do after college because I really have not had a lot of ‘real world’ field experience to test out what I like to do, so I am still unsure about the major I declared,” she said.
Students enter college with a different mindset than when they graduate from it four years later.
Leanne Jenkins, a sophomore business major, agreed that as freshman and sophomores, students worry about making friends and taking in this new independence given to them.
“This tends to distract them from focusing on their academic goals that will set the stage for their next four years of college and beyond that,” she said.
In that case, the transition from sophomore to junior year can feel quite daunting.
“Those students are going to standout in a bad way with others who are prepared. There’s a sense of loss for students who are still in that 24-7 electric wave of social interaction mindset,” explained Price.
“They suddenly wake up one day and a lot of those friends who were in it with them have moved on. Feels like you’re getting left behind,” he said.
Sophomore kinesiology major Trevor Tanaka explained that while standing out in a bad way because of a lack of preparation influences some students to work harder academically, many students also compare themselves to their more successful peers.
“This comparison can have negative effects on students’ self-confidence,” said Tanaka.
Christian Lava, a sophomore biology major and nutrition minor, worries about not being a competitive applicant for medical school.
“I find the transition [from sophomore to junior year] difficult because I am constantly comparing myself to students who are more successful than me. Most of the time it’s because they scored higher than I did on the last exam or have a higher GPA than I do,” said Lava.
According to Price, this comparison is not uncommon.
“It’s normal for everyone, but particular to this age group, to kind of measure where they’re at by the context of their peers,” he said.
“Sophomores are going to be juniors and everybody has this kind of mapped-out plan for their life it seems, and some are kind of feeling a drift. Truth of the matter is, not everybody is as mapped out as it seems. It just feels that way when you’re so uncertain,” said Price.
It’s ineffective for students to compare themselves to others. Everyone is experiencing a different crisis at some point in their college career, and therefore it is much more beneficial for students to set goals for themselves and work hard to reach them, agreed Berger.
After examining her current college struggles, Alexis Figueroa, a sophomore theatre and TV writing and production double major, noticed that she is not alone.
“Everyone goes through some kind of crisis, and I think the best attitude to have is that it will soon pass, and to just keep moving forward and never give up. People should focus on their education, themselves, and on being a better person,” she said.
Although this mid-college crisis seems quite frightening to many sophomore students, it is important to remember that college is a time to explore.
“The major you decide to pursue doesn’t necessarily limit you to that field once you graduate college,” said Price.
“The important thing is to just have goals for yourself. If it turns out that major you have declared in retrospect isn’t a good fit for where you want to go, there’s still going to be other opportunities to develop those experiences and connections to do that,” explained Price.
So focus on your goals and don’t panic. College is the time to figure yourself out and even if you change your mind about your major, none of your education is wasted, use it as ground preparation for whatever comes next.
Like Price said, “in a nutshell, think long-term, not short term; it’s a marathon not a sprint.”