OPINION | Sophomore year is hard

Gabi Liebeler, Views Editor

(Gabe Darley)

While freshmen acclimate to campus for the first time, juniors balance off-campus living with an intense academic schedule and seniors grapple with the anxieties of impending post-grad life, a student’s sophomore year in college may often be defined as easy, at least comparatively. 

By the time they enter their second undergraduate year, students have experience navigating their college campus and its academic expectations. With a year under their belt, a student has likely also settled into the college social scene. 

Consequently, sophomore year gains a reputation of ease due to increased student experience. But this idealistic characterization of sophomore year overlooks a time in a student’s life in which one must begin to think about future plans while trying to make the most of what, for most, may be their last year living on campus.

Sophomores at Tulane University live in one of the following residence halls: Aron, Décou-Labat, Irby, Phelps, Mayer, Weatherhead and Greenbaum. While some of these residential spaces offer single rooms, they all have the option of suite-style living, so that even if a student has their own bedroom or shares one with another student, they may have between two and six additional roommates. 

For some students, living with more people is enjoyable, but it requires finding balance between social life, academic prioritization and necessary alone time. 

Sophomore John Caruso lives in an eight-person suite in Phelps Residence Hall, and said, “I love having everybody there sometimes, but also, you need that alone moment as well. I think school is all about balance, and when you come into college, it’s your own duty to find balance.” 

“You find what works for you and what doesn’t … school, social, you name it. For me, at least, I know that if I go out I also have to stay in and socially recharge and have my alone time to keep my sanity.” said Caruso. “It’s tough sometimes, because we have screaming and people and music and noise outside.”

Further, students may choose to room with friends. While this kind of living situation is attractive to many, living with close friends has the potential to strain both a friend and roommate relationship.

“The best way to go into any relationship, even that of roommates, is to have zero expectations,” says Shirani M. Pathak, the founder of the Center for Soulful Relationships. “When we have expectations, we set ourselves up for resentment when those expectations aren’t met. Instead, go into the situation with an open mind. Sure, your roommate-to-be might tell you they are a clean person, and their idea of clean might be very different than yours. When you can keep that in mind, it makes developing resentments a lot less likely.”

When one’s social environment intersects with their home environment, it may be even more difficult to establish boundaries regarding both types of relationships. It may be the case that while students are working through potential issues living with friends on campus, they are simultaneously thinking about the individuals with whom they want to sign a lease or rent a home.

Most sophomores seek off-campus living prior to the start of the school year and are tasked with finding roommates, landlords and housing while the academic year is in full swing. 

Sophomore Alex Bianchi began to seek off-campus living at the beginning of August, and her search continued into the school year.

 “I think that finding a house was my top priority above school for about a month, and that showed in my grades. I did not like that, and mentally, it was a struggle trying to figure out everyone’s accommodations within a house and what worked and what didn’t, balancing everyone’s schedules.”

Splitting her attention between school and finding housing overwhelmed Bianchi: “I felt like a real estate agent, and I was 18 years old. That is not pressure that should be put on one person. Maybe it is my fault for taking on that responsibility, and I’m glad that in the end it worked out, but it was a lot of pressure at one point,” she said.

While looking ahead to housing, a Tulane student is also expected to declare their major by the beginning of their fourth semester. It is no easy feat for a student to decide the direction that they want to take their academic and professional career. While a major can be switched or dropped, declaring one means committing to certain classes necessary to graduate on time, understanding that there may no longer be room in your schedule to take classes just for fun.

Sophomore year is also when Tulane students typically decide whether or not they want to study abroad. Because leaving Tulane — even temporarily — implies a change in one’s living and academic environment, approximately 600 students each year must make sure they can acquire these new spaces abroad while still securing classes and housing for their return.

Going into sophomore year, students are likely excited to reunite and live with their friends and partake in one of the liveliest college social scenes in the country: no longer being the newbies on campus who are apprehensive to use their fake IDs for the first time at the Boot Bar and Grill. 

However, the fun façade of sophomore year fades as the responsibilities pile, quickly, and often without warning. It is possible that only during or after all this stress ensues, students actually begin to share their experiences and find common ground with their peers in learning that sophomore year is hard: academically, socially, mentally, personally. 

While there may be nothing we, as students, or the administration can do to ease these stressors, maybe just by talking about them, we can become more realistic about what it means to grow up.