flickr/Brett Levin
flickr/Brett Levin

Sophomore Slump

No longer a freshman, not yet a senior.

No longer just a freshman, I cruise the halls on autopilot. With each class gone by, the new year reveals the perks being a sophomore. But these privileges come at the expense of some less-than-desired matters I’ll have to get used to. Gone are the days of roaming the halls during free periods. Rather, now, as the Chagim ends, the work begins to pile—it’s crunch time.

Cue my epiphany: I should be studying, working or doing something to prepare for the storm of work rapidly approaching, but I’m not. I might not be a freshman anymore, but I’m still an underclassman with a long way to go before I’ll get to turn my tassel. Only now, the excitement has dulled. I need to self-motivate to prioritize the tasks at hand to continue focusing on what is important. Still, this is much easier said than done. When a day, week and month goes by, and try as I might, nothing has changed, I stop trying at altogether. Yet, regardless of my attempts to repress my realization, I was quickly overwhelmed by my increasingly chaotic schedule. I soon found myself completing long term assignments and cramming for tests the night before they were due or set to take place. With this excruciating cycle, I longed for the weekends which always came too late and were never long enough.

It seemed as though I was zoning in and out of my sophomore year, glazing over the assignments once in a while, while forgetting that school even existed the other half of the time. However, on the rare occasion that I would wake up with a sense of purpose to do my schoolwork, as soon as I got the ball rolling with the first assignment, the rest seemed to follow effortlessly. On one such day I arrived at my first period class a few minutes early and noticed that one of my friends was using a planner, and although I wouldn’t necessarily say that I feel strongly towards planners, for some reason I was compelled. Perhaps the planner triggered some sort of nostalgia from Septembers of elementary school when my teachers would hand out a new planner for each of my classmates and proceed to convince us of its representation of a fresh beginning, full of opportunities which I would follow by logging every bit of homework for the next year, but on this particular morning, a surge of productivity rose within me and I was determined to start using one once again.

Some swear that the purchase of a planner will change your life. But at the beginning I wasn’t completely on board. Sure, I had bought one, but how was this simple notebook supposed to save me from my hectic schedule? In all honesty, at first, it didn’t seem to work. I was uncommitted, just as I had been before. But with time I realized the benefit of consistency. Organizing my life one day and waking up a mess the next simply wouldn’t help because spending the next day unproductive will simply regress any headway I had made in establishing a system the day before.

But as much as I wished that I could dub my recent success with time management as an end to my “sophomore slump,” it wasn’t. Tackling time management was the easy part. Now, I needed something in addition to my logic to keep up the momentum and keep me motivated, but trust me, this wasn’t an easy feat. I didn’t wake up one day, an idea exploding out as one big eureka; the evolution of my perspective developed over time. Eventually, I realized that the fundamental difference between my freshman and sophomore year was the novelty. As a freshman, I was drawn by the unknown of high school. I was no longer a little eighth grader gaping at the coolness that high school seemed to offer; now I had the key to the world of which my friends and I had fantasized for years. But the key’s shine had since begun to wear.

By the beginning of this year, high school had proven a bit of a disappointment, less important than I had deemed only a few years ago. Yes, I love my school, but it isn’t new anymore and I’m not preparing for college yet, so there isn’t much to look forward to, or so I thought. A friend of mine recently pointed out that my “new thing” doesn’t need to be such a life altering experience. As insane as my 10-subjected, dual curriculum of both thought-provoking Judaic and secular subjects is, perhaps simply spicing up my curriculum would be enough. By taking an interesting elective, swapping an extracurricular for another or dropping it altogether together to make room for something I’d rather be doing is enough to keep me grounded and present during my sophomore year. 

So, yes, – “sophomore slump” in high school is real and to all of the sophomores feeling a bit bummed with the year—you aren’t alone. You might be like me, having experienced something that spurred you to action once in a while or you simply let go of your priorities altogether, but getting back on track is doable. Your hard work from when you are motivated bears witness that you owe it to yourself to find a way to get yourself back into action and find a way to enjoy your sophomore year. Sophomore year shouldn’t be a burden that eats up your free periods in exchange for the incessant numbing of boredom. The lack of something “new” during sophomore year is there to teach us to find the right inspiration to encourage ourselves. This is the time to take responsibility and form the high school experience we want. 

Unlike what I used to think, the key to high school isn’t the same for everyone. The chances are that what I want and what someone else wants to come of their high school experience will be completely different. As a freshman, nearly everything was handed to us gingerly and we were neither expected nor trusted to make many decisions ourselves. All of a sudden, with only a summer behind us, we become sophomores, and are given creative freedom to how we approach this year. Similar to the planners of my childhood, the new year is a fresh slate to tailor the year to my liking.

Ora Gutfreund is a sophomore at Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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