The Sophomore Year At Radcliffe: I

(This is the first of two articles on some difficulties the Radcliffe girl encounters during her sophomore year. It deals exclusively with academic problems; tomorrow's article will review social problems.--Ed.)

For years Radcliffe sophomores have cited the sophomore slump to pacify parents, appease tutors, diagnose roommates--and try to cope with their own emotional upheavals. Recently, the Rules committee of RGA considered the sophomore slump an agument against extending junior and senior social rules to sophomores. But describing the slump proves considerably more difficult than invoking it.

Despite the variety of forms which the syndrome takes, the problems of the sophomore year at Radcliffe do share one characteristic. Dr. Erik Erikson pointed out in an interview that the Radcliffe sophomore finds the moratorium of her freshman year replaced by many pressures to commit herself. For example, Harvard demands that the Radcliffe student choose a field of concentration by her sophomore year. Also, she tends to choose her patterns of social life in her second year of college.

After confusing concentration dinners, conferences, and dining room conversations with equally uncertain classmates, the freshman must select a field of concentration. As Mrs. Bunting explained, early in her sophomore year the student often concludes that any decision eliminates many possible courses and even careers. Freshman advisers often urge students to experiment with courses; sophomore tutors point out the limits on erimentation imposed by concentration requirements.

A student often finds her childhood plans exploded by the time she becomes a sophomore. She may have based her image of herself, as well as the respect of her parents and friends, on an early choice of career. She may have written her Radcliffe application, scholarship forms, and valedictory speech about her lifelong ambition to become a doctor. Then, beset by new interests, she sees the image explode. She often magnifies or even precipitates the change through choosing a field of concentration.

Even girls who felt sure about their fields of concentration have reported disappointment with their sophomore tutorials. Encouraged by upper-classmen, they expected some kind of intellectual stimulation and close contact with faculty to solve many of their freshman problems. But, because they generally have group tutorial, they often lack the opportunity to talk with their tutor at length.


The student may become more worried about her grades in her sophomore year. Upperclassmen and even section men may encourage her to blame her academic problems on poor high school training. By sophomore year, this excuse loses its value. She may have difficulty adjusting to Radcliffe her first year; by her second, no such problems can explain away bad grades.

In seven of the last ten years, more sophomores than freshmen or juniors have had unsatisfactory grades. In six of the last ten years fewer sophomores than freshmen or juniors have been in the first three groups of the Rank List.

On explanation for such statistics is clear, Doubts about one's field of concentration and one's worth as a student affect academic performance and contribute to the sophomore slump.