Six Tips for Incoming Juniors

Some tips to help you survive the hardest year of high school


Photo credit to RCSD.

If you’re about to go into junior year and you’re feeling a bit anxious about it, you’ve come to the right place. I’m not going to tell you that junior year is a cake walk, but I can give you a few tips to hopefully make your experience better. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned about surviving junior year.

1. Prepare for standardized tests early

Standardized tests are the most inconvenient part of junior year. You already have so much schoolwork, and on top of that, you have to prepare for the SAT or ACT. I would advise starting your test prep as early as possible. I began all of my ACT tutoring at the end of June 2018 and spent the entire summer in and out of tutoring sessions. In the moment, it’s awful. Trust me, I would’ve rather spent my summer at the beach and with friends than sitting in classes and taking practice tests. But when I was done with the ACT before many students had even started it, my summer didn’t feel like a colossal waste. Junior year really picks up second semester, and luckily for me, I was fully finished with the ACT by February, so there was never a huge overlap between school work and ACT work.

2. Meet with your guidance counselors often

Having a strong relationship with your guidance counselor is so important. When you apply to college, your guidance counselor will be asked to write a recommendation letter, so they’ll need to have a lot to say a lot about you. Besides your recommendation letter, it’s also a great idea to sit down with your guidance counselor every so often because their advice is very helpful. If you’re going through a rough time, they’re there to listen; if you need to make a list of colleges to visit, they can point you in certain directions. Your guidance counselors know what they’re doing, so it’s in your best interest to form a solid relationship with them. Also, they’re really nice and fun to talk to!

3. Stay on top of your work

This may seem obvious, but it still needs to be said. During junior year, you’ll get more work than you’ve ever had before, especially if you’re taking a number of AP and honors classes. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed; in fact, I can’t remember a time this year when I wasn’t overwhelmed. And sometimes work can be so excessive that people tend to procrastinate. Don’t be this person. Procrastination makes everything worse. Be proactive; if you know you have a big sports game or a project coming up, get your work done early and in an efficient manner. Sometimes you’ll have to make grown-up decisions about choosing to stay in and do work instead of going out with friends. And sometimes you won’t like the wiser choice. But if you stay in one night and end up getting a good grade on a test or feeling prepared for a presentation, then you’ll know it was worth it.

4. Take classes that interest you

My least favorite day of the school year is probably Recommendation Day because students get so in-your-face and competitive about their schedules. Good for you, you’re taking ten APs, but I honestly couldn’t care less. It shouldn’t be a competition about who has the hardest schedule, and you shouldn’t take classes simply for this reason. You should aim to have a challenging schedule that is within reason. And pick classes that you’re actually interested in. You’ll enjoy school so much more if you have a genuine passion for the classes you’re taking. I speak from experience because I went through this when I signed up for AP Environmental Science. It has a reputation for being the “easiest science AP” (which, by the way, isn’t true), so I was discouraged by others from taking it. But it was something I was interested in, so I listened to myself and took the class. And I love it and have no regrets. It’s fascinating and challenging and has made me more aware of the threats that climate change poses. If you want to take AP Art History, do it. If you want to take chorus, do it. Go with your gut, and fill up your schedule with a plethora of interesting classes.

5. Pursue interests outside of school 

I love writing. I’ve written for The Garnet Mine for two years, and I’m a section editor of the newspaper. So for a while, I was writing a lot at school, but I wanted to do more outside of school. I heard that the Rye Record was looking for a student writer for its online publication, so I reached out and got the job. I’m now the writer that covers the Girls Lacrosse Team, even though I’ve never played lacrosse outside of gym class. I’m so happy I applied for the job because it has exposed me to real journalism. I’ve learned to meet deadlines, ask people for quotes, and write about something that I didn’t know much about before. I think that if you’re interested in something, you should go for it. When you’re doing things you love, it makes life so much more fun. There are so many opportunities for students, and it’s important to pursue them.

6. Reach out for help

Junior year will be a much bigger challenge than the past two years of high school, so you may struggle in the beginning. This is normal, and everyone goes through it, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful. It’s paramount to form good relationships with your teachers and ask for help when you need it. Your teachers want to see you succeed, so they’ll do anything in their power to make it possible, but unless you reach out, they’ll never know. Go to x period, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and always do extra credit if it’s offered to you. Junior year becomes much more manageable when you have a support system behind you.

You have every right to be stressed about approaching junior year, but you shouldn’t let it be a crippling fear. Junior year is hard, but if you take advantage of your resources and play to your strengths, it can be better. I hope my tips are helpful and make your junior year more enjoyable! Good luck!