Originally Posted: May 21, 2016
Last Updated: Jul 28, 2020
I assume you’re on your way to junior year if you are reading this article. If so, congratulations! The journey most likely hasn’t been easy, and it certainly isn’t over yet. Sorry to burst your bubble of optimism, but this year doesn’t get any easier; junior year is really the beginning of an uphill battle toward finishing high school and entering college. However, you don’t have to be completely lost if you’re figuring out where to begin! Junior year is a lot like a treasure hunt: it will be a lot easier if you have some sort of map or guide to help you along the way. Hopefully this article will aid you in successfully navigating this crucial year of your high school career.
Related: High School Juniors: Remember This
Get serious about standardized testing
Nobody likes taking standardized tests—and if you find someone who does, let me know. You’ve likely heard the spiel about how tests don’t define you as a person and that they aren’t a true, accurate reflection of you as a student, but they’re as close as colleges can get to a rounded evaluation of your reasoning and skills. Boo hoo. Since there’s no way to get around these exasperating exams, try to give yourself an advantage by utilizing all study tools available to you. If you can afford to, purchase a study book specific to the exam you need to take. If you can’t, your local library most likely has study aids that you can check out.
Whether you’re taking the SAT, ACT, ASVAB, or any other test necessary for your post-secondary education or career, the worst thing you can do to yourself is wait until the last minute to study and end up cramming. Cramming random knowledge that has a very slim to nonexistent chance of showing up on the exam is not the wisest use of your time. If you want to retain any knowledge that will actually help you, the key is to begin early by identifying key areas that require your attention. If you’re great at sentence structure but fall flat when it comes to solving word problems, it wouldn’t be smart to spend hours drilling sentence structure. Sites like Khan Academy offer personalized practice based on how you perform on diagnostic tests. Don’t study hard—study smart!
Don’t get lazy
Three years into high school, students start to get something I like to call EOS: early onset senioritis. Let’s say your high school journey is a marathon, and junior year is the three-quarters mark. After miles of running (almost three full years of heavy studying, long school days, annoying teachers, and even worse classmates), we tend to “hit the wall” academically speaking—it gets harder and harder to find the motivation we once had to not only complete our work, but to do it well. But junior year is definitely not the time to start resting on your laurels! Though colleges evaluate your overall transcript, they will be paying close attention to how you met the challenge of junior year. Have you kept a grade pattern similar to or worse than previous years, or did you show growth and improvement? Did you sign up for classes that would challenge you, or did you allow the rigor of your courses to plateau?
Related: How to Survive Junior Year
Get familiar with your teachers and counselors
As easy as it is to make a monster out of them, believe it or not, your teachers don’t wake up every morning devising ways to make your life miserable. Your teachers are there to help you, and more often than not are eager to get to know you and help you through both their class and high school in general. We all have personality differences, which is understandable, but the more effort you put into befriending your teachers or at least giving them a fair shot, the more enjoyable their class will be! This puts you in a good position for a recommendation when you need one for college, a job application, etc.
Also, don’t forget to pay your counselor a visit—or, start by finding out who your counselor is. My school has counselors for each career academy, counselors for boys and girls, even counselors for new students and children with military parents. Once you know who you need to talk to, schedule an appointment with them or send them an e-mail. Counselors can help you work out an academic plan that best fits you personally. They can also help you get on and stay on the path to graduation and college. If you’re having a rough time and don’t know who to talk to, feel free to go to your counselor. They will be more than happy to help!
Start looking at schools
Even though it seems like senior year is light years away, it really isn’t. If you wait until senior year to start looking into schools, you might find yourself in a stressful situation. Most colleges have application deadlines between December and January, depending on whether you’re applying Early or Regular Decision, which further shortens your search time. If you begin the search process early, you give yourself the advantage of finding a school that you have a personal connection with and know a great deal about rather than choosing based on time constraints. Start by looking into schools that offer programs or majors that you might be interested in. If you are interested in athletics, for example, try to find schools that offer that sport. Don’t forget to look into tuition and discuss costs with your parents! And if you want some more tips on how to find the right school for you, check out my previous article.