Someone Told Me “Sophomore” Means “Wise Fool”

I didn’t believe in the “sophomore slump” when I first heard the term. It sounded like some sort of strange and esoteric phenomenon that could never happen to me, because I thought I would know exactly what I wanted to major in as soon I started my sophomore year. Well, both of those ended up being pretty good jokes.

I now find myself right in the middle of my first semester of sophomore year, in the middle of course requirements for the Neuroscience major, and I’m stuck in the sophomore slump. I’ve completed five out of the fourteen major requirements and I have no idea if I even want to follow through with the major anymore.

Almost a month into this school year, I found myself not even feeling smart enough to be a Neuroscience major. Molecular Biology (BIO-191) just didn’t come to me as naturally as it seemed to come to other students in my class. Unlike everyone else, I didn’t automatically understand what it meant to “phosphorylate” something, let alone understand the implications of it. At that point, I turned inward and started pinning the blame on myself. I told myself that it was my fault that I wasn’t smart enough. I told myself that if I couldn’t succeed in this 100 level course, I was never going to succeed in the sciences. I could never be the Neuroscience major that I’d been planning to be all along because I didn’t have the “scientific mind for it.”

And to be honest, it felt like most other people didn’t think I had the mind for it either. Every time I told someone that I was a potential Neuroscience major, they looked at me with a sort of shocked expression. This shock seemed to go beyond the general shock associated with seeing someone willingly take on a rigorous 14-course major, and seemed instead to be much more personal. I received comments like, “Oh, I didn’t think you were into the sciences,” so often that I felt others must have known something I did not. This lack of outside confirmation made me feel like the major was meant for a specific type of person, and that that specific person was absolutely not me.

But, of course, this sort of self-detrimental thinking is inherently flawed. Zooming out of the situation (i.e. calling my mom to complain about my feelings of inadequacy), I realized that the real reason I was freaked out by phosphorylation was because I had never been so casually exposed to scientific jargon in an academic setting. Yes, I’ve had a few science internships, but I had felt that since I was entering academic levels that were much higher than the ones I was in, it was okay for me to be uncomfortable with a lot of the jargon I was being exposed to.

But even with all of this in mind, there’s just something about the sophomore slump that causes you to really analyze every single move you make. So of course, I started questioning myself. I thought, even if I was smart enough to at least pass my classes by seeking the plethora of help provided on this campus, was I passionate about doing so? I felt this was the most pressing and most important question to be asking myself. Did I even want to be a Neuroscience major?

Even now, it’s hard for me to say. I don’t think that I’ve ever felt my heartstrings tugged by any course I’ve taken. Yes, I’ve been interested, and yes, I’ve been curious, but I’ve always thought that I would know what major to choose when the course material made me lose sleep because I was still passionately mulling over what I learned in class. And the thing is, I really don’t think that’s happened yet.

I’m not yet sure how I feel about this issue. I’m not sure if I’m ready to drop Neuroscience just yet (although I’ve mostly dropped the idea of being pre-med). To be frank, I haven’t even taken my first true Neuroscience specific class at Amherst, since I’m due to take Introduction to Neuroscience in the spring. Because of this, and because I truly did enjoy my neuroscience internships, I’m still holding on to the faith that next semester I’ll declare Neuroscience.

Even through all this inner turmoil, I’m still feeling okay. I may not have it all figured out yet, but I’m okay with that. As long as I keep going and keep other people’s negative thoughts out of my head, things will all work out.

Maybe I needed this reevaluation. Maybe, just maybe, that’s all what the sophomore slump is about.