We made it. Junior year is officially over… almost. Here is what we’ve done so far this year: taken the PSAT, SAT/ACT, and AP tests, asked for teacher recommendations, made resumes, applied to jobs, pulled all-nighters to study for tests (looking at you, physics), procrastinated way too much (and regretted it later), drastically reduced the amount of sleep we need to function, bookmarked Naviance, cheered for the seniors at powderpuff, failed to master walking up the stairs from the first to the third floor without getting out of breath (it never gets easier), enjoyed our new upperclassmen status, and more. Here is what we still have to do before our years of high school are over: apply to college, actually participate in powderpuff, make it through the first semester of senior year, get into college, go to prom again, continue to fail to walk up the stairs easily, walk across the stage to get our diplomas, and say goodbye, among other things. So yeah. There is a lot to anticipate in the year ahead. But there is a lot to look back on as well — some of it with pride, some of it with pure relief that it is over. And, after making it through all of that, we have a few words of wisdom for all the junior classes that come after us.
Stay calm. The best word to describe junior year is busy. Classes are harder, expectations higher, and college applications closer and closer every day. You will not get five hours of homework every night. But some nights you will. And some nights, you will have two projects due the next day, two tests to study for, regular homework to do, and after-school activities until 7:00 pm. On these nights, it is easy to panic. But from people who have had way too much experience panicking this year, it’s not worth it. Sit down and get yourself some ice cream. Take breaks. Listen to music. If you need to, ask for extensions. Put everything in perspective. You will be surprised at how quickly you will forget about that one test you did horribly on, and how quickly you will learn the best way to manage all of your responsibilities in order to succeed. It will be hard. But it will also be rewarding. And, eventually, it will be over.
Get to know your teachers. We all know what it is like to sit in a painfully quiet classroom, too scared to speak until we develop the confidence to actually raise our hands once in a while. Don’t let junior year be like that. Many juniors are not shy, not particularly well-behaved, and definitely not quiet. It’s important to talk to your teachers, ask them for advice, and have real conversations with them. Not only does this make classes far more relaxed and fun, but during junior year, it is more important to develop relationships with teachers than ever. It is one or two of your junior year teachers (usually) who will be the ones writing college recommendations for you, and you want them to have something to say. Make a good impression on your teachers, and you are one step closer to an enjoyable year and future success in your college application process.
Remember that you have help. During junior year, the pressure of applying to colleges sets in early in the year as everyone begins forming lists of colleges that they are interested in and looking at acceptance rates and average GPAs and SAT scores for these schools. However, while this process may be stressful at the beginning, it gets easier as you narrow down your list of colleges with the help of guidance counselors and parents. The people around you are there to help. You have teachers to advise you, guidance counselors to (you guessed it) guide you, parents to support you, and friends to be there every time in between. It’s important to realize that you have people in your life to push you towards success and be there for you to fall back on during your inevitable small failures along the way.
You have more than one chance. Standardized testing and test prep take up a lot of time during junior year. The colleges you have recently started looking at may have average SAT and ACT scores that seem difficult to achieve. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt at a standardized test yields a disappointing score. Any one failure does not spell the end of your future. In fact, most people end up taking the SAT and ACT several different times before they apply to college. Test prep is time-consuming, but it really does help. You are not going to do everything perfectly in junior year. But you don’t need perfection, and on your first try, you don’t even necessarily need good. All you need is better and better and better, and though it may not feel like it when you see your first SAT score flashing on the screen in front of you, you will make it there in the end.
Finally, it’s not all bad. Junior year is hard. There is no getting around that, and many of us were taken aback at just how much we underestimated the expectations of this year. Yet, in between everything difficult, there are things to look forward to in junior year. Your friendships will only grow stronger. You have now been in classes with mostly the same people for at least three years of school, and you know them better than you ever have before. You have them to laugh with, complain to, and panic with a block before that math test you forgot to study for. As a junior, you get to go to your own class’s prom for the first time, enjoy having some sense of arbitrary superiority over the underclassmen, and realize just how close you are to making it to the end of high school.
All that being said, what do we know? We don’t even follow our own advice most of the time, and we’re just as uncertain and scared for our futures as the next person. What we do know, however, is that junior year is almost behind us. We did it, and every class below us eventually will too. Now, the class of 2020 takes on senior year.