How to Beat the Harvard Sophomore Slump

By Kathryn S. Kuhar

September is almost over. You’ve chosen which clubs you want to comp and which ones to leave. You’ve met up with those friends from last year and promised to hang out just as often even though you don’t have class together anymore or one of you lives in the Quad. Now that everything has settled into a monotonous rhythm, you’re left wondering what happened to all the things you wished to change this year. Maybe campus just isn’t as exciting as it used to be. Regardless of class year, if any of these has been your experience this semester, read on for advice about how to beat the blues.

Talk to People

At a time when you’re figuring out who you are and the sorts of goals you have for yourself, it can be really stressful to make big decisions like choosing a concentration or joining a new organization. Reach out to friends, family, advisors, and deans and talk about what’s on your mind. The more you put your conflicted feelings into words, the more you will be able to deal with them. The House community is another resource available to you this year, as well as Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services and the Bureau of Study Counsel. It’s a cliche, but comparing yourself to others doesn’t work since everyone is coming from a different place. Try to compare yourself to who you know you used to be, see how much you have grown, and assess how you can grow even more.

Take the Initiative Academically

If you feel like freshman year did not go the way you planned, don’t worry. You can always improve. Take the initiative by going to office hours when you’re confused sooner rather than later, and start assignments early to feel like you have a bit of a grip on things before midterm season. Meet with concentration advisors and students to try to map out your future semesters in your concentration. There are lots of good options, so choose something you like and remember that many Harvard students change their concentrations a couple of times before graduating. Plus, it’s still not too late to drop a class.

Holding on to your friends

Sometimes relationships are hard to fall back into at the beginning of a new semester. Especially after freshman summer, people have changed and so have you. Maybe it was hard to keep in touch or find common ground on non-Harvard aspects. Still, this is not to say you should abandon last year’s friendships; be honest with your friends, and don’t be shy about texting them to meet up. Scheduling a weekly lunch, dinner, or psetting date can help ensure that you see them. Give it some time to settle back to normal, and remember you will inevitably be meeting new friends too.

Escape the Harvard Bubble

This is often something we plan on doing but have a hard time actually budgeting time for. It’s worth it to escape the Harvard bubble and venture into the outside world. Plan out your semester in terms of papers, presentations, and midterms to determine afternoons or weekends where you can spare a few hours to leave campus. Explore Cambridge and Boston; many museums are free with a Harvard ID, and you can check Facebook for events in the area. Remind yourself that you have a life apart from Harvard to relish and look forward to.

It’s okay to feel worried and anxious as you enter your sophomore year, and if you’re slumping, it’s not the be-all and end-all of your Harvard experience. Know that there are actions you can take to get out of the funk, and even if you can’t make them this semester, there will be many opportunities in the future.

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