Overcoming The Sophomore Slump

Overcoming the sophomore slump

The sophomore slump is a natural but frustrating lack of motivation upon reaching a mid-point towards a goal. Here’s how to get back on track.

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This article on Overcoming The Sophomore Slump is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School. 

Traditionally, the “sophomore slump” is a (completely natural) phenomenon in the learning timeline where you experience some initial success followed by reduced effort for a period of time. This reduced effort shows as a slight regression towards your goal or against the mean. There are a number of factors that contribute to the sophomore slump, and just as many ways to overcome the internal battle for motivation. 

What Causes The Sophomore Slump?

In its totality, the sophomore slump often looks like burnout from a program or a process. Being overwhelmed can often lead to apathy in your work, making it more difficult to complete or even feel invested in tasks. A 2017 study by The University of New Mexico showed that, after an initial effort, it’s natural to want ease and comfort in your next steps. But when this is applied to a learning process, it can often snowball into habits that do not serve the greater purpose of why you started in the first place. 

Signs You May Be Experiencing Sophomore Slump

Of course, in a bootcamp “sophomore” does not always refer to your second phase. It can be after a few weeks, or months depending on the levels of burnout you’re experiencing, or even after the initial push and excitement has worn off. Learning isn’t linear, and motivation certainly isn’t either. It can be hard to tell if you’re fatigued from all the Zoom-ing, or if there’s something a bit more patterned happening. 

Here are some habits and behaviors that may indicate this pattern: 

  • skipping or being late to classes
  • zoning out or not paying attention
  • waiting until the last minute to start or finish assignments 
  • feeling overwhelmed by your work 
  • procrastinating or deprioritizing your program
  • “giving up” on assignments or concepts
  • feeling disconnected from your cohort or instructor

If you happen to notice one or two of these behaviors in your own life, there’s no need to panic. As stated earlier, this is completely understandable and I’d caution to say a “normal” part of the learning process. Learning has more than one “curve”, so the most helpful steps you can take to alleviate falling behind in this manner is to first, acknowledge that you’re dealing with one of these dips in the curve. 

At this “sophomore” point, midway through your program, things may seem most difficult or disconnected from each other. This is also the point that usually comes right before the big “aha” or “putting it all together” phase of programmatic learning. The most important thing you can do is to see it through. There are ways of getting out of thinking it is too difficult to succeed, or that you’ve fallen too far behind, or that you’re not motivated enough to finish.

How To Overcome The Sophomore Slump

Thankfully, there are methods for becoming motivated and catching up.

Seek Support

The first step is to always reach out to your instructor, advisor and peers. It can take others checking in, or accountability meetings to get back on track. There is no shame or stigma in experiencing some setbacks in your journey. Sustaining motivation for prolonged periods of time in a goal-setting environment is never easy. Meeting with your instructor and advisor can give you the small, achievable, and measurable goals that you can attain to get the ball rolling again. These accountability meetings or check-ins can help you regain some self-efficacy and remind yourself that you are capable of completing difficult tasks.

Look Ahead

Another way to become re-engaged with your program is to look into career paths that flow from your program. Career Services has a myriad of resources available that can re-energize your efforts. Scroll through LinkedIn to see what projects are going on in your field that you can get excited about. Or, start looking at companies that share your passion and imagine what’s possible once you graduate. 

Community Involvement

Try getting involved with your community! We have some amazing people working hard to make sure you have a community of learners to help you out and engage with when you’re feeling a little behind. 

Discord can connect you with other students who are going through the same academic challenges you are. Try setting up a time to run through some code together, study, or pair up on a lab! This can be an incredibly validating experience. You’ll also review or learn new information in a different capacity, which can make it easier to remember. 

If you are on campus, there are many opportunities to engage with others who share interests. Reach out to your campus coordinator or check out the Community Calendar to see what’s going on near you! There are even Career Services AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions that can be helpful and motivating. 

Take A Bird’s Eye View

Think in the big picture. Why are you here? What motivated you to come to Flatiron in the first place? How will your life change once you have this graduation under your belt? Everyone comes to the table with a different perspective and set of learning skills and strengths. Make sure you hold onto yours and rediscover it if you need to. There will be times when you lose motivation, that is unavoidable. But, by taking small achievable steps, you can gain back the intrinsic drive you had to finish what you started. 

Battling exhaustion and apathy comes with so many major learning moments in life. Remember that you can do difficult things to unlock better opportunities for the rest of your life. 

About Sara McCown

Sara McCown is a Team Lead for Student Advising with Flatiron School. She has been on the Advising Team since its recent creation and has previous experience in public education and administration. In addition, she has over 12 years of experience in coaching students for success. She’s also an avid reader and always open to suggestions and discussions!


Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of August 17, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

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