So far, my third year has mostly been about broadening my employment horizons. I started a second job with Dal Student Life, got really into my LinkedIn profile, and began to explore my postgrad options. What made the biggest impact on me was a career panel I attended that featured graduates of my program. Few adults in my life have gone to university, let alone grad school, so I didn’t realize how many exciting possibilities were available to me.
Listening to those speakers made me feel like it was the end of high school all over again (or maybe it was just the cold brew I had earlier in the day). But with that freedom of choice came something more frustrating. After that day, I began to feel the dreaded third-year slump.
What is the slump?
For me, the slump comes when I feel like I’m honestly over being a university student. I look at all the different jobs I could be working, the lives I could be living, and then I get annoyed with having to do a bunch of readings. It’s not what I’m studying that bothers me—I like my classes and my professors, and I do feel like I’m in the correct majors. It’s just that I want to start building my ‘real life,’ and school doesn’t feel like a part of that.
I think the feeling is also exacerbated by the fact that I’m an out-of-province student. Being in Halifax for the majority of the year means that a lot of the connections I’m building might dissolve if I decide to move back home. As a result, a lot of my efforts feel sort of futile.
Nowadays, I would much rather pick up extra shifts at work instead of cracking down on my studying. At least at work I can end my shift knowing that I’ve completed the task in front of me to the best of my ability. In contrast, the pressures of school feel never-ending. There’s always something I could be working on, and I long for the day when my free time will no longer be dominated by unfinished assignments.
At this point, the idea of actually using my weekends as personal time seems like a far-off dream. They’ve simply become opportunities for uninterrupted studying. This cycle of class, work, study, sleep, and repeat has ground me down.
Why third year?
Sure, we’ve all heard of the sophomore slump and senioritis. Personally, though, I think it’s third year that presents the biggest challenge. Now I’m speaking from the perspective of an arts major here, so I’m not obligated to pursue grad school in the same way STEM majors might be. As a result, I’m looking at school as (ideally) a four-year process.
To me, first year is a total whirlwind where you’re adjusting to managing your own responsibilities. You feel out of control a lot of the time, and you’re constantly learning new things. Then second year comes around and you can grow from your past mistakes. You begin to get your act together and hopefully feel like you’re hitting your stride. By third year, it’s just about maintaining those good choices.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I feel (relatively) well-adjusted and in command of my life. But it can also feel a little boring. Sure, I’m not panicking over submitting assignments at the final hour like I was in first year, but I’m also not receiving the rush of adrenaline that comes with it. I often feel like I’m just biding my time until school is finished, which makes me want to do my work even less. I do hand in everything on time, but I don’t feel pride in it like I used to. It’s simply become my new normal.
I can’t speak to senioritis yet, and I’m sure it will bring its own challenges that I’ll complain about next year. But at least seniors can hold on to the light at the end of the tunnel that is graduation. They can tell themselves that they only have a few more essays, a few more exams, and then they’re done for good. The worst part for me is that I can’t even motivate myself by saying school’s almost over, because I know I still have a year to go! I just have to keep running on the academic hamster wheel.
To be completely honest, I don’t know how to fix my third-year slump. The articles I’ve read on the subject are filled with generic advice that doesn’t seem to help. I’m told to practice self-care and try new things, but I still feel the same afterwards. Maybe it’s my fault for working so hard at school. But then again, I am paying a whole lot of money for my university education, so I should be trying my hardest.
I often find myself oscillating between two lines of thought. Part of me wants to keep my head down and get through school as quickly and as painlessly as possible. On the other hand, I’ll probably only go through university once, so I feel that I should be living in the moment and enjoying it as much as I can.
Neither perspective seems to be the right fit for me. I imagine that time will resolve my issues one way or another, so I guess I should just grin and bear it until the semester is finished. But that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun! So please share your advice below if you’ve been through the same thing. I’m all ears.