The S’s in Stress: Senioritis and Sophomore Slump

It’s that time of year again: You’re not feeling well.  Little energy.  No motivation.  Can’t get out of bed.  Want to sleep all day.   You feel like you’re coming down with something.  Sure, it could be the flu or simply a cold, but look more closely and you may find there is something else brewing.

Senioritis and sophomore slump impact high school and college students alike. The two conditions share common themes, just as the two groups share some common features. Seniors and sophomores are in the midst of developing purpose and identity. Sophomores have made it through the first year and are looking for meaning on campus, while seniors are preparing for acceptance into the real world. At this point in a student’s academic career, their personal brand is ripe for growth.

sb298Senioritis: been there, done that.

You may remember senioritis from high school – the college admissions process nearly put you over the edge, and by the time winter break rolls around, you’re spent. PSAT, AP, IB, ACT, SAT – if you ever have to compete against another acronym, you’ll burst.   If it weren’t for prom and the fact that you need to keep your grades up for college apps, you’d slack off for the entire spring term and wake up on graduation day.

According to wiseGEEK, “The excitement of starting a new career or higher educational path can overwhelm the routine realities of school life, making even the most exciting graduation rituals seem less and less appealing. This general feeling of apathy or malaise is informally known to both students and faculty as senioritis. Senioritis can strike anytime during a student’s senior year, but generally it appears during the final months of the second semester.”  Furthermore, “Some colleges . . . have exercised the right to rescind admission offers to students who fail to demonstrate educational discipline during their final semester as seniors.”

Diagnosis: Slump

Sophomore slump, what’s that?  Pattengale and Schreiner (2000) define the sophomore slump as “reduced motivation or apathy, declining grade point averages, or a letdown from their first year.” First year came and went with its orientations, advising seminars and open houses, but when sophomores arrive back on campus for their second year, there is no pomp and circumstance.

sb4309It’s a reality check when sophomores learn that they are expected pick up where they left off and engage responsibly and realistically in academic, preprofessional and extra-curricular activities.  Unfortunately, many sophomores come to realize that they don’t know how they got here and what it is they are supposed to do next.  This is when the dissonance sets in.

Common Threads:  Senioritis and Sophomore Slump

Let’s take a closer look at how a series of deadlines and decisions in sophomore and senior year can add up to a supreme crisis.



Deadlines & Decisions
  • Selecting an academic advisor
  • Choosing a major
  • Applying for internships
  • Registering for classes
  • Thinking about study abroad
  • Meeting with a career advisor
  • Exploring careers
  • Applying for jobs/ grad school
  • Facing student loan payments
  • Finding a place to live after graduation
Collateral factors
  • Parental pressure
  • Competition with peers
  • Feeling invisible after a first year marked by loads of attention throughout orientation
  • Parental pressure
  • Competition with peers
  • Cultural shock after returning from study abroad, if applicable
  • Dissonance, indecision and lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling down and depressed
  • Fear, uncertainty
  • Dissonance, indecision and lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling down and depressed
  • Fear, uncertainty
  • Tardiness and absence from class
  • Poor grades
  • Sickness
  • Leave of absence
  • Tardiness and absence from class
  • Poor grades
  • Sickness

Rx for the S’s

Expect- and even embrace- senioritis and sophomore slump. These challenges are precursors to issues you will face at some point in your future.  However, do not become consumed by the S’s.  By anticipating these conditions and accepting that they do exist, you can work to overcome them and develop important coping skills along the way.  If the prospect of so many decisions and deadlines seems like too much to handle, ask for help.

sb7There are lots of helpers and supporters on high school and college campuses including guidance counselors, coaches, career counselors, academic advisors, tutors, peer leaders, time management consultants, and the list goes on.  Helpers will advise you to make a list of your priorities and will refer you to other services on campus who can support you.  The Senior Year Checklist and The Sophomore Year Checklist, posted by Student Branding Blog editor Melissa Kong, are especially helpful in tackling the S’s.  If it helps, or if you think you need a wake up call, phone or Skype home and let your parents know that things aren’t going so well.

Sometimes, the effects of senioritis and sophomore slump can damage your personal brand.  Learn to take back control and make the most of sophomore and senior years.


Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education.

Related posts:

  1. The Sophomore Year Checklist
  2. Navigating your career: I am a sophomore, where do I go from here?
  3. Turn Stress into Success

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