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Junior Year: The "Worst" Year

Noa Cordova

Volume 4 Issue 5

June 26, 2024

Junior Year: The "Worst" Year

Image Provided by Noa Cordova

Out of the four years of high school, junior year typically gets deemed as the hardest, most stressful year. Going into junior year, I heard many upcoming seniors claim their junior year was the most intense. It makes sense; junior year serves as a preparatory year for college applications during senior year. While the application season may be intense, you essentially highlight all the work you’ve done throughout high school, especially throughout junior year. Most juniors find that academic pressure increases, extracurriculars become harder to balance, and thinking about college gets overwhelming. As a “survivor” of junior year, I’d like to share the specifics of what makes junior year challenging and offer some tips to upcoming juniors. 



As you progress through high school, the courseload inevitably increases and becomes more difficult. As an upcoming junior, you have additional freedom with your schedule. From what I’ve experienced, this usually means juniors will load up their schedules with AP courses. While it's great to challenge yourself, taking these courses often means a lot of homework and studying. For many students this means busy evenings as there doesn’t seem to be enough time after school to attend a club meeting, do homework, practice a sport, and study for an upcoming exam; time management becomes the greatest challenge. If you're an upcoming junior, planning out how you intend to stay organized and on top of your schoolwork this year may be a wise choice. Don’t overlook basic tools like planners, calendars, and to-do lists to stay organized. I can attest to the fact that the reminder app on my iPhone and color coding my calendar were life savers this year. In terms of keeping up with schoolwork, take advantage of resources including peer tutoring, extra help, math labs, science labs, and library hours. Seeking out a responsible group of peers in your classes can also help with last-minute questions or sharing study materials. Having more freedom with your schedule also means that you can choose to lighten your load or add classes to balance your schedule. You may want to consider dropping an AP from your schedule to add a less intense class or even a lunch period. Every year, I add electives to my schedule for some balance. I’ve taken public speaking, creative writing, and forensics. Although I took several AP classes this year, I took ceramics and photography. Of course, these classes come with their course load, but they tend to be less stressful than academic courses. 



As most of us are aware, colleges base applications on more than just grades. Extracurriculars help demonstrate who you are and what you're interested in. For those who are already heavily involved in clubs and activities both in and out of school, staying on top of club responsibilities can be demanding. If you’re already involved in several clubs, I’d suggest limiting yourself to those so that you can dedicate your time to them adequately. If you have several leadership positions, be sure to communicate with advisors and clubs and delegate tasks. Some students use the junior year as an opportunity to start getting involved in clubs, adding to their busy schedules which can be stressful. If you're considering joining clubs, avoid overloading yourself and stick to clubs you are genuinely passionate about; joining an activity solely to fill a resume can make your junior year less enjoyable. 


Standardized Tests 

Although not as heavily considered in college applications in recent years, standardized tests still play a role in college admissions and will increase in prominence in upcoming years. Nationally juniors and seniors, take the SAT or ACT in preparation for their college applications. Studying for the SAT or ACT throughout the school year while studying for your other classes isn’t very ideal. Fall or Summer exams may be better options as you have summer months to prepare. Online prep resources like Khan Academy or College Board review books are great for practicing on your own. Our school also offers an SAT prep course for a semester; this might be more effective than trying to dedicate time outside of school to study. The SAT and ACT are considered the same for college admissions; however, the tests differ in terms of content and timing. Taking practice versions of both exams paired with some research can help you decide which test you should focus on prepping for. 


Thinking About College  

About 62% of high school graduates enroll in college undergraduate programs, meaning that a significant portion of high schoolers are tasked with the lengthy college research process (U.S. Bureau of Labor). Understandably, simply thinking about college tends to be overwhelming during junior year. Visiting colleges, creating a list of schools, picking majors, and deciding if you want to go away or not is enough to make your head spin. The summer before your junior year, or even after, is a good time to think about all this since your mind is less occupied. While trying to figure out what kind of school best suits you is overwhelming, various resources can assist you. For example, Naviance is a college research platform that has quizzes to help you find which college suits you best or what kind of career path suits you. It’s a great place to start and can provide you with a list of schools that suit your preferences. If you have an idea of what you’d like to major in, looking into a school with good programs is a good place to start. Through the college board’s search service, colleges will send you emails with information about their school and links to webinars with useful information. Methods like learning about colleges through other experiences or using books like the Fiske College Guide are alternatives to spending time in front of a screen. As you learn about school using these resources, you can start building your college list and plan visits. On a Collegewise webinar, they suggested visiting local colleges with similar properties to out-of-state colleges you're interested in. For example, instead of taking a trip to Boston University, visit New York University to get a feel of a city campus. Of course, this does not serve as a substitute for the actual tour where you will learn about the school and the city but can give you an idea of the environment you’d like to go to school. Lastly, talk to graduating seniors about what helped them during their college research process. They’ve just gone through the process and will likely offer you valuable insight. Recently, the National Honor Society held a panel where juniors could ask seniors questions about the application process; it’s both extremely helpful and comforting to hear from others who’ve completed their applications. 


Although junior year is stressful, by managing your time, taking breaks, and participating in fun teenage activities you can enjoy your junior year. Generations upon generations of students have pushed through junior year. It doesn’t have to be the nightmare people work it up to be, you can manage it. At school, friends, peers, teachers, and counselors will be there supporting you along the way. Most importantly, remember you are your primary support system and to take care of yourself as you take on the highs and lows of junior year.  


College Enrollment and Work Activity of Recent High School and College Graduates Summary - 2023 A01 Results ( 

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