Sophomore year isn’t about surviving, it’s about thriving.
When you’re seventeen, it’s senioritis. When you’re college-bound at eighteen, it’s the freshmen fail-out (with perhaps a freshmen fifteen on the side). And when you’re nineteen, it’s the sophomore slump. Every year another phrase with sinister predictions about your physical, psychological, and emotional life.
A quick Google search reveals “survival” guides for you, the collegiate nineteen–year-old, who might as well throw up his hands in surrender to this reality. During the slump you become a crotchety curmudgeon that loses the freshman twinkle in your eye, grows agitated with professors, parents, and friends, and pulls the dorm room curtains tight so you can listen to Coldplay and weep into your pillow.
Don’t misunderstand, I respect and empathize with the sophomore experience. It can be a turbulent time deep in your teenage years when you realize the decisions ahead and their importance to your future. But when survive rather than thrive dominates the conversation, it’s time we change the conversation.
Enter Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Developed in the 1980s by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva at Case Western Reserve University, AI has gained traction among businesses and organizations as a strengths-based analytical tool. AI rests on assumptions. Groups think and act based on shared assumptions. For example, if the collegiate society assumes the sophomore slump is inevitable, sophomores will, by and large, think and act slumpishly. Change the assumptions and you change group thought and action.
AI assumes organizations are mysteries to be embraced. The same should be said for your sophomore experience. In order to embrace that mystery, AI encourages you to:
- appreciate and value the best of ‘what is’
- envision ‘what might be’
- dialogue about ‘what should be’
- innovate ‘what will be’
So, whaddya say? How about you open those arms. Let’s embrace the mystery.
Appreciate and Value the Best of ‘What Is’
What do you value most about being a sophomore? Why?
What makes you proud to be a sophomore? Why does this bring you pride?
What new relationships have you made since you stepped on campus that enrich your life?
What relationships at home or off-campus are important to maintain?
What knowledge have you obtained to this point?
Envision ‘What Might Be’
What other academic areas do you find interesting?
What organization or club could utilize your talents while growing your skill set?
Where, on campus, can you meet diverse groups of people?
How can you harness you talents in service of your campus and community?
Dialogue About ‘What Should Be’
Where should you focus you academic efforts?
Where, with whom, and how should you spend your free time?
Who should be involved in the healthy relationships you build?
What should be the start of the legacy you leave on campus?
Innovate ‘What Will Be’
What will be?
That bears repeating.
What will be?
So sophomores, slump no longer.
Stand up straight.
The worry and the negativity?
It can wait.
1 Cooperrider and Srivasta (1987) “Appreciative Inquiry Into Organizational Life” in Research in Organizational Change and Development. Pasmore and Woodman (eds) Vol 1, JAI Press.
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