Dear Class of 2020,
Congratulations! You have made it through the first four weeks of being an upperclassmen. Some of you might be cruising along while others are already stressing about stacks of homework and heightened expectations. Many of you will soon feel the strain of junior year accumulating. Additionally, you might be intimidated by the bad connotation 11th grade has acquired over the years. I bet most of you have heard that junior year is the “most stressful year of your life” or “the worst time to be alive”; just to clarify, those are real quotes I have heard classmates say during my junior year of high school. Ever since freshman year, I have heard that junior year was the year to fear. The year is depicted in a negative way due to years of students struggling to balance testing, college lists, grades, and many extracurricular activities. With the onset of your third year of high school, you might find yourself overwhelmed and under a lot of pressure. I would be lying if I said I had never felt any of those feelings last year. Based on experiences of my own and some of my classmates, here are some key aspects of junior year and advice on tackling them:
Stay Positive & Don’t Stress (too much)
With all the stressors of junior year, it is easy to lose focus on the bigger picture. It is important not to stress about the process too much because everything will fall into place. Organize. Plan. Prioritize. Those are some key actions to take to become less stressed. The fewer conflicts you encounter, the less stress you will have. If you have trouble in a certain class, you should meet with the teacher or go in for PLT time. Going in for help and taking the extra steps is worth itー even though in the moment you might not want to get up early and go to school when you could be sleeping in on your block day. Your teachers are great resources, and they are always willing to help you. One of the things that stressed me out the most was the lack of sleep. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to get enough sleep. As a junior, that is one of the hardest things, I’ll admit it. I rarely found myself getting a solid eight hours. If you plan ahead, it will allow you to prioritize your time better, and maybe even help you get an extra hour of sleep (you’ll definitely need it). Planning ahead will make your life so much easier; trust me.
As a junior, one of the biggest things (if not THE biggest thing) you are probably worried about is your grades. Junior year grades are important, but college admissions counselors want to see growth. I advise you to push yourself and work hard to get the best grades you can. Let’s say you had lower grades in the previous two years, a rising grade trend may work in your favor. With that said, you should not take easier classes in an attempt to raise your GPA or grades. Continue to push yourself and work hard for the grades you want. But don’t stress too much about grades. One bad grade won’t determine your whole future.
Oh standardized testing, some students love you; some students could care less about you, but the majority of students stress over you like no other. When it comes to testing, the first decision you need to make is which test to take. The ACT might be more your style, or some of you may favor the SAT; either way you should make a decision. Many students will take both to see which raw score is better. Other students take a diagnostics test to see which they will score better in. Some students decide which test to take based on how long or how many questions there are. However you decide is completely your choice, I just recommend you pick one. You may wonder, which test do colleges prefer? From personal experience and long hours of college searching, my friends and I have never come across a school that favors one test over another. Once you have decided on the test to take, start sooner rather than later. I recommend not waiting until senior year to take the test unless you thrive under lots of stress. The ACT and SAT are not like the tests you take in school. With these, preparation can make a major difference. If you take the test sooner, you will have ample time to see where you are weak. From there you can work on those areas in order to grow and improve your score. A lot of juniors get tutors. Tutors can be very helpful; they guide you on how to succeed, but taking matters into your own hands and putting the time into doing practice tests and workbook problems will be the ultimate way to reach the score you want. If you do take the test sooner and get the score you want by the end of junior year, you will have the opportunity to nail down, or at least come up with, a solid college list.
When it comes to teacher recommendations, my biggest advice is to ask for them in person. Asking in person is more personable than say an email. I recommend asking your teachers in the spring, especially if you choose a popular teacher; therefore, they have ample time to write a quality recommendation. It is important to get to know your teachers and let them get to know you on a personal level. But don’t hassle the teacher too much! They know what they are doing.
Get To Know Your Counselor
If you don’t know who your counselor is at this point, I recommend getting to know him or her, or at least scheduling a meeting. Your counselor is there to help you with the college process, scheduling, and much more. Don’t feel intimidated to go to them for any questions. Having a close relationship with your counselor will help him or her write a more personal recommendation. Meeting with your counselor early will also help make sure you are on the right path to graduation. Your counselor can motivate you and can make your junior year easier for you.
Junior year is the year where you finally realize how much freedom you have. Most of you can drive a car, some of you will be getting a job, and all of you are no longer underclassmen. 11th grade brings more freedom into your life, but this makes balancing and prioritizing all your activities more difficult. With school, sports, clubs, instrument, and other activities that may take up your time, it can be hard to find balance. Junior year, more than ever, it seems you have no free time. It is important to make use of your time in study hall because that time after school becomes more valuable. If you stay organized and on top of your school work, more free time will open up.
To sum it all up, there is no hiding the fact that being a junior in high school is stressful. You have so much to manage and it feels like the clock is your enemy. You are going to have to deal with drama, bad grades, all-nighters, and many other things that heighten your stress level. The most important thing to realize about junior year is that it won’t define who you are. If you are struggling, there are always people to turn to. Don’t sell yourself short because of one bad grade or test一 work harder for the next test. Don’t forget to enjoy high school during this stressful time because the years go by so fast. Amongst all the stressful, late night study sessions are some very memorable moments that you could miss if you forget to relax and spend time doing things that you enjoy. Make the most of this year because you only have two years of high school left, and trust me, it goes by in the blink of an eye.