You’re not the only one. In the lead up to university, you will likely have heard the following piece of advice: ‘Make the most of your first year, it doesn’t count!’ However, the blissful blur of freshers year soon comes to an abrupt halt once midterm deadlines approach, along with the dawning realisation that essays actually matter. The accompanying feelings of depression and anxiety are known to many students as the ‘second year blues’.
This mental slump often occurs at the end of the first semester of second year and continues throughout the festive period. Its the feeling that you are half way through your course and it isn’t quite what you thought it was going to be, that actually you hate writing essays or the degree doesn’t feel “worth it”.
These three Nottingham students encountered similar feelings in their second year – and give the essential advice about how to avoid it.
Rosie, 19, Studying: English Literature and Language
“I ended up doing four intense days of coursework writing. I had a breakdown at 2 o’clock in the morning and considered dropping out”
Is second year very different to first year? Second year is very different because I was in halls first year and it’s a completely different working environment. And obviously this year counts towards your degree so there’s a lot more pressure.
Describe your second year blues: Despite setting resolutions to be more motivated and work harder, I ended up doing four intense days of writing coursework. I had a breakdown at 2 o’clock in the morning and was considering dropping out, just freaking out about the amount I had to do. It’s just the relentless knowledge of having more and more work.
Any advice? I think it’s important to talk to someone about it. If you’re really stressed ring up family or friends. My friends were really supportive of me. You just have to focus on the small things rather than focusing on the bigger picture because if you do things step by step it makes things a lot easier.
Simon, 21, Studying: Maths
Is second year very different to first year? Mainly in terms of workload. The content is also tougher and there are more deadlines so it’s generally more difficult to stay on top of things.
“My brother went to university three times and dropped out three times”
Describe your second year blues: It’s usually during the second half of term where you make a list of all the work you have to do and then all the work coming up and you don’t really see a way out. It’s really de-motivating and I tried to pretend it wasn’t there which was a bad idea. It kind of comes and goes and you start to question if you can actually do the degree. Or I did at least. It’s not a great feeling.
Ever consider quitting? Fleetingly. My brother went to university three times and dropped out three times, so I’ve always tried to keep going because I know that he regrets not sticking it out.
Are degree blues specifically related to second year? In first year it was different because it didn’t really matter. You didn’t have to stress about work because actually it doesn’t count towards anything – it’s just about getting you used to the environment. In second year you’re like ‘oh this is important’ and I know third year’s going to be even more difficult.
Any advice? Stick at it. I regret not really talking to someone about it. But there are so many options for people to talk to and once you get it off your chest you can start to think more clearly.
Rachel, 20, Studying: Psychology
Enjoying your degree? Yes and no. Yes because its all still interesting, no because you’ve got no choice with modules and you get stuck doing stuff you don’t want to do.
Is second year very different to first year? Definitely, you have to do the work for starters! You’re expected to do a lot more and know a lot more beyond than in first year. You aren’t guided quite as much.
Are degree blues specifically related to second year? I can imagine third years feel the same about it but second year is horrible because it’s right in the middle. At least in third year you’re doing more of what you want and you know you’re close to getting something out of it.
“In second year, you’re expected to do a lot more and know a lot more”
Any advice? Do your reading in first year because I didn’t and that was a bad idea. Find time to relax, not just doing all your work because you get into a bit of a hole. Here’s a word of advice for those in the storm of second year. Focus on the small things and don’t stress over the bigger picture. Embrace organization. Don’t bury your head in the sand. After all, the slump is just one step in the turbulent three years that is an undergraduate degree.
Hey, you’ve still got third year to look forward to.