Reality set in for my sophomore at dinner the other night. I like to call it the Sophomore Freak Out.
Let’s set the scene: It’s May 1. The unofficial non-Hallmark holiday of “national college decision day.” My daughter realized that she, honestly, only has two more years of high school left. ONLY TWO YEARS! Additionally, those two years are really the most stressful of the high school experience.
Remember that extreme tunnel vision zoom effect like you see on TV and in the movies? This was one of those moments for her.
“OMG,” she said. “Am I taking the right classes? Am I taking enough AP classes? What about another foreign language? My math grades are AWFUL! What about college tuition? WHEN ARE WE VISITING COLLEGES?! I don’t know what I want to do!”
Dinner got cold quickly.
How to Calm the Sophomore Freak Out
How did I handle this moment? Three ways.
- I reassured her that her course load, that she meticulously planned out before Freshman year, was still on target for what she wanted to major in. Now wasn’t the time to compare her two junior year AP classes to her friend’s four. She was choosing a course load that was rigorous and challenging, but importantly, one she could do well in. Don’t take AP classes just for the sake of it; admissions offices don’t want to see a “C” in AP Psychology if you’re planning on majoring in Graphic Design. Don’t know what you want to major in anyway? Not a Type A student who designed a game plan before 9th grade? Good for you! Select junior and senior level classes that are challenging and interesting — and that you know you’ll have to stretch yourself to do well in — not because you think the admissions department at a school you’ve not even heard of would care.
- I reassured her that she was halfway through, yes, but there was still plenty of time to change up the mix, if she felt like she wanted to. Was a club or extracurricular not meeting her needs or expectations? Maybe she’s “over” cheerleading but maybe tennis sounded cool? Was there something else she wanted to add in to her life experiences and eventual application? This summer, between her sophomore and junior years, was a good time to think about that.
- I reassured her that she does, actually, have time. But it’s time to start mapping out her plan with a little more detail. It’s time to start researching colleges and universities she may want to attend. Collectively, we need to figure out when we’re going to do college visits and how far away from home she wants to be. And that summer job she just scored? Saving now for that pizza later is a must-do.
Let’s Say It Together: Reassure
If you noticed, the main thing I did to calm the Sophomore Freak Out was I reassured her that she was both top of things and yet, she still had time. Your student may have a different kind of Sophomore Freak Out (or even a Junior Freak Out), but focusing on the positive, while letting the negative spur on action, is what we’re here for.
Planning, re-evaluation, and strategic course selection is how to approach junior year!