I think everyone can agree that junior year is the hardest year of high school for most people. It’s the year when you have to really start thinking about colleges you’re interested in; it’s the last full year of grades that colleges will see on your application; and you’re probably taking the SAT and/or ACT this year. But don’t worry–just think about how many people have already survived 11th grade! Many of these people, including myself, want to take advantage of their experience to help you make it through the next 9 months as stress-free as possible. Even I survived, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in school. I’m here to share the things I’ve learned from my own experience and the stories of my classmates.
Take classes that you enjoy! Yes, APs can be rewarding if you genuinely enjoy the subject. I only took one AP class this year, AP Statistics, which I LOVED. But I think I would have dreaded this class if I didn’t love math so much. (Yes, I’m a nerd, and I’m okay with it.) Even though the picture above is from a class I took this summer, it’s a perfect example of taking a class that I enjoy. Even though the professor assigned a lot of work, I have absolutely no regrets about taking this class.
Don’t be afraid to drop a class. This is along the same lines as the last piece of advice, but I thought it deserved extra emphasis. If you load yourself with too many classes or too many honors/APs, do not stress yourself out by thinking you’ll be able to push through. Yes, you may be able to survive, but at what cost? You don’t want to damage your mental health. Many colleges don’t care about how many advanced classes you take. I promise it’s not worth it.
Don’t be afraid to ask teachers/friends/family for help. Good teachers will be more than happy to help. I guarantee you that they will not judge you for not understanding the material or needing an extension due to a heavy workload. Asking for help shows a genuine interest in doing well while also recognizing your limits. I went to my English teacher countless times this year to ask for help on my essays and worked my butt off to improve my analytical skills that he bumped my grade up at the end of the year. It always pays off. 🙂
Build positive, strong relationships with your teachers. Not only does this help with the previous point, it also is important to college applications. Your teachers from 11th grade as well as your college counselor will have to write letters of recommendation that will supplement your piece of the college application. I developed such a great relationship with my teachers that I know I will be barging in on Mr. Lijoi’s classes for fun and pestering Mr. Ritt for his vegan chocolate peanut butter bars. (Shoutout to Mr. Ritt for the best vegan snacks!)
Don’t become a social recluse and neglect all of your friends. Your social life is still so, so important. If you’re in the same class as some of your friends, you can make a study group! As long as you actually do some work while you’re together, this will help you because 1) you’re getting new perspectives on topics you’ve already learned, therefore increasing your knowledge; 2) you can quiz each other; and 3) you’re improving your mental health by spending time with friends! This is not to say that you should collaborate on homework assignments that should be independent or spend time with your friends when you should be doing homework, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you barely have any human contact. A good goal that I set for myself was to hang out with friends once a week outside of school, sometimes twice if I didn’t have much homework. I also spent as much time with them as I could during the school day, even if it was just sitting in silence doing homework.
Prioritize your mental health. This goes along with the previous point, but it deserves extra emphasis. Your mental health is more important than a good grade. I repeat: your mental health is more important than a good grade! I promise! On top of this, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get a break from school after finally pushing through a week of having to stay up until 3:00 AM every night to finish homework. It will only have a negative impacts on your grades (and, more importantly, mental health) in the future. Sleep loss is cumulative, so, assuming you need 8 hours of sleep every night, 4 nights of getting 6 hours of sleep is equivalent to pulling an all-nighter! I have (occasionally) chosen to not do homework assignments and spend time with my family purely because I needed a mental break. And guess what? My teachers were fine with it! Teachers are humans, too! They understand stress! What a concept!
If you’re taking standardized tests, get them done as early as possible. Spring tends to be filled with more homework, and you don’t want studying for the SAT/ACT/Subject Tests hanging over your head. Don’t freak out if you haven’t already started preparing because worrying will only make your studying less impactful. Additionally, if standardized tests are something that make you feel panicked, there are plenty of colleges that don’t require the ACT or SAT! Yet again, just like teachers, admissions officers are humans, and they understand that people are more than a test score!
Get ready for this one because it’s a bit of a tongue twister: don’t make your stress worse by stressing out about how stressful it will be. In other words, worrying about the pressure that comes along with junior year will only magnify the anxious feelings. Yes, junior year is important, but it’s not the end of the world! A number or a letter does not define you, and colleges recognize that. You are not only a student; you are a human being with a wonderfully complicated life that sometimes gets in the way of school work. You may also be a human being with anxiety disorder or clinical depression or something along the same lines that can prevent you from doing your best work. It’s not your fault. You can’t get rid of these things, and they sometimes attack at inconvenient times. Life would be so boring if nothing ever happened outside of school.
If you don’t read this entire article or you don’t believe me, this is the message that I want everyone to take away from this post: as Grandma always said, if you try your best, everything will be okay. The Universe has a way of making things work out for the people who put their best effort into everything they do. That isn’t to say that you’ll never flunk a test if you work hard, but if you see a D as a learning experience rather than beating yourself up for it, then you will ultimately succeed.
How are you going to make this year better?