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How to Avoid the Dreaded Sophomore Slump in High School

You survived freshman year, and college is a ways off, so you can take it easy as a sophomore, right? Wrong! Here's what you should be doing this year.

Ah, the four years of high school...freshman year, everything is new. You're excited (and a little terrified) to finally be in high school. You can ride this energy throughout the whole year. Junior year, you're taking your hardest classes and the college search is looming, but you’re busy in really good ways. Senior year is all about college admission, but you’ve pretty much got this high school thing down, and you’re enjoying being on top of the food chain.

But what about sophomore year? You survived freshman year, and college is a ways off, so you can take it easy, right? Wrong. This belief that you can slack during sophomore year is what leads to a drop in grades known as the sophomore slump (or sophomore jinx). And the slump is dangerous, because it still counts for a huge chunk of the grades and activities that colleges and scholarship providers consider when you finally apply. But you can avoid the sophomore slump with these five easy steps.

Get organized!

I know you’ve heard this a million times, but organization really is key. But organization does not mean buying tons of new school supplies and having perfect binders; organization is all about having a system and staying on top of your deadlines and other responsibilities. You need to figure out what works for you. Maybe it’s color-coordinated binder tabs and calendar reminders, or maybe it’s a bunch of to-do lists and designated study times, but make sure your system works. And, no, shoving everything in you backpack does not count as a system.

Related: How to Get Organized and Manage Time in High School

Develop relationships with your teachers

Having a personal relationship with your teachers can be more beneficial than you realize. When teachers get to know you as a person, they can help you do better in their class if you’re struggling, they can write you a legitimate recommendation letter, and they can even offer life advice as a mentor. An easy way to start is to talk to your teachers when you are confused about an assignment. Then see if they have any free time between classes when you might ask them a question or two. You don’t want to take up all their free time, but remember that teachers want to help you, and giving them the chance to do this can lead to a really meaningful relationship. However, this does not mean suck up to them; believe it or not, teachers don't like a suck up.

Don't take on too many extracurriculars

Just because you feel like you’re dominating your sophomore classes does not mean that have lots of extra time. I have made this mistake time and time again: at the beginning of the semester when I don't have lots of work, I join a lot of different clubs and teams and then get swamped later on. This is a horrible mistake—don’t let it happen to you. Make sure to only bite off what you can chew. Quality is more important than quantity.

Related: 5 Tips for Choosing Your Extracurriculars

Stay focused

All you have to do get through this year is stay focused. This means a few things: First, stop watching Netflix while you do work or study (seriously, it does not help you). Second, find a study space that can help you focus; I recommend a library study room or maybe a quiet café. Having a place to go and study is extremely beneficial. Finally, stick to your organization strategy mentioned in tip #1.

Take care of yourself

Remember: school is not worth sacrificing your happiness and mental health. This does not mean that you are allowed to slack but school is only part of who you are as a person. Try to cultivate all those other interesting parts about you as well, like hobbies, sports, artistic interests, etc. They’re important for your future success too, and you’ll be happier because of them.  

Related: Great Mental Health Habits for Students to Establish

Sophomore year of high school is the time to maintain the focus and momentum you built freshman year but with the flexibility to explore your high school community now that you’re familiar with it. Try out new extracurriculars, take on new and interesting classes, and work your hardest. Sophomore year should be the year you can effortlessly ace before you have to start seriously thinking about college. Take advantage of this time to give it your all!

If you need a reminder of the key college planning things to do this year and beyond, check out our Ultimate College Planning Checklist!

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About Griffin Scott-Rifer

I am a current junior at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, and like most juniors I am freaking out about college! At school I am a member of the drama club and the debate team. In my spare time (not that I have much), I enjoy reading and playing violin. I hope that my writing will help others navigate the college search and application process.


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