Everyone says junior year is the hardest year of high school, and I have to admit they are right. I was blindsided with homework, extracurriculars, and the all-too-real prospect of standardized tests when I started my junior year. Within weeks, I was rushing to finish assignments at lunch and the majority of my friends were sleep deprived.
In summary: it was a mess. But with time, I eventually figured out how to navigate the situation and lived to tell the tale. Whether you’re a rising upperclassman looking for advice or a fellow survivor who can relate to the list below, here are a few things I wish I’d known before starting my junior year of high school.
Related: Video: Junior Year Advice
1. Organization is key
Your courses will only be more challenging as you go up the ladder, so if you want to help yourself stay on task, you need to figure out a system for all your schoolwork. You can organize your assignments in binders or color-code each of your classes, but pick something that you can stick with. Since junior year can be a bit of a balancing act with all the activities you may be involved with, setting a system can make all the difference.
2. It’s okay to say no
While it may seem like a great idea to take five AP courses, play three varsity sports, and work a part-time job at the same time, it really isn’t. Know your limitations before you cram too much in your schedule, because overworking yourself isn’t beneficial to anyone—especially you. It’s perfectly fine to say no to a couple extra activities that you know you won’t have time for.
3. Do things you’re interested in
You shouldn’t join every activity for the sake of your future college applications. And while others may encourage you to take up every opportunity you can, it’s better to focus on the things you really want to do. Whether it’s art or photography or science, get involved in the clubs you would willingly show up to even if it had no impact on your college decisions.
4. More will be expected of you
Junior year is usually the time when the pressure to succeed gets bigger while the room for error gets smaller. Being an upperclassman means that your teachers, professional school counselors, and parents will expect greater responsibility from you. And your sophomore year excuses for late assignments may not be as permissible. Go into junior year with this level of expectation and maturity in mind. People will expect more of you because they believe you are capable of greater things. (And you are!)
5. Enjoy the little things
High school only lasts four years, and if you’re a junior, you’re over halfway through! This year is sure to bring its fair share of trials, but don’t forget to enjoy all the little things that make each year of high school memorable.
Go to the homecoming game, start a club with your friends, get your driver’s license, cheer during pep rallies, and dance at the prom. Even if it seems like just another overrated school function, join in on all the typical high school teen stuff. You just might enjoy it!
Junior year is full of procrastination, stress, and pop quizzes, but you learn to get through it the best you can. You’ll learn so much more about yourself and your capabilities after you’ve been pushed to such an extreme. And if you can get through it with some level of sanity left, then you can proudly deem yourself as a junior year survivor.
Junior year is also a great time to apply for scholarships. Look for ones that fit you with our Scholarship Search tool!