10th Grade: Avoiding the Sophomore Sluff

In my experience, the 10th grade year can be fraught with distractions and what I refer to as “academic continental drift” as it pertains to one’s grades. Newly minted sixteen year olds often have their eye on getting a driver’s license (unless you live in Idaho where you get the early bird permit at fourteen years old under the agrarian laws) and testing the eddy line of independence and the social scene in ways that are more risky; there are certainly more social and emotional trap doors and temptations. In conversing around the table with seniors, I frequently see more inconsistent grades from one’s 10th grade year. When I ask about this, reflective seniors will sheepishly declare they wish they had paid more attention to their work and less time on the “other stuff.”

This begs the question – how can 10th graders avoid the sophomore sluff and what is the antidote? I think of high school as traveling through two distinct divisions: DI being grades 9 and 10 and DII being grades 11 and 12. In thinking about what skills and accomplishments you want to have developed heading into DII, as educators we stress having study habits in place (time management, organization, focus, prioritization, and self-advocacy) along with strong character attributes (punctuality, integrity, selfishness, resiliency, and empathy). This does not mean that all students are operating at peak performance, but that they do know where you are, who they are as a student, and are considering where they’re headed. As a 10th grader, it is a good time to look ahead to anticipate what colleges may be looking for in applicants. In addition to one’s GPA and test scores, colleges indeed care about you as a person and are interested in what kind of contribution you might make to their college both in and out of the classroom.

Remembering that the 10th grade year represents one-third of your academic performance on a transcript heading into the fall of senior year, one recognizes that 10th grade is an equally pivotal year in further developing your academic skills and profile, extracurricular interests and personal goals. So the best inoculation against the potential sophomore blues is to continuously take stock of your academic whereabouts, and to keep the social scene proportional to your overall goals and ambitions. And always keep your eye on the road!