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Advice for Junior Year

From a Rising Senior to a Rising Junior, Here are My Tips and Advice for Junior Year 

It is no myth that junior year is the hardest and the most critical year of high school. Still, in my opinion, junior year is also the most rewarding year academically and socially. However, there are still a lot of things that I wish I knew before going into junior year, and I often wished there was someone to guide me through the stress of the year, so I hope that my top ten advice for rising juniors helps guide someone who felt as lost as I initially did.

1. Organization is KEY!

I know this seems basic and obvious, but I wrote down every assignment in my agenda and used Google Calendar to set up reminders for club meetings and extracurricular activities. I have a pretty awful short term memory, so I utilized technology to my advantage. I set up reminders on my phone for meetings and deadlines; my folders in google drive are color-coded by subject (this allows me to find my class assignments quickly). I turned my Google Classroom notifications on (this is even more important for next year as classes might be online).

2. Get involved with your community

Junior year is the best time to escape your comfort zone, be bolder, and search for opportunities. My best advice for finding opportunities is to first think of what you want to do in the future and center your search around a common theme. For example, the business world always fascinated me, so I looked for ways to get involved with the business sector of Birmingham. Junior year is a great time to explore and develop your passions. Volunteer at the humane society, the zoo, the library, or with different local organizations. Second, don’t be afraid to email people asking for opportunities. Chances are that a lot of residents want to help you get the experience you want. Do your research and reach out to people for jobs, volunteer, and internship opportunities. Along the way, you’ll bond with amazing people, and it is always rewarding to learn about and serve your community.

3. Take your tests!

Although many colleges have announced that standardized tests are optional amidst the pandemic, I am not sure how this will affect future classes. However, in a typical year, I would highly recommend taking the SAT or ACT at the beginning of the school year by registering on their respective websites. Find out which test you are more comfortable with and get it over with, so you don’t find yourself trying to cram in testing at the end of the school year because the end of the year is often more stressful and hectic than the beginning.

4. Set goals for yourself

At the beginning of your junior year, you should make a list of your goals; whether it’s to win an academic award or make new friends, a running list will keep you motivated throughout the school year. You’ll be proud of yourself when you accomplish a goal and get to check it off the list. Have an idea of what you want to achieve and plan out how you will reach each goal. I would also keep a running list of all the awards you won in high school, so you have an organized list to pull from and write about once it’s college application season.

5. Balance your academic life with your social life

Your junior year’s workload will stack up, but focusing solely on academics can quickly become very overwhelming and stressful without social breaks. Avoid overworking yourself to avoid feeling drained. Plan out study dates with your friends, enjoy a picnic, watch a movie, or grab dinner! Maintaining meaningful friendships and spending time with your family is just as important as the academic aspect of junior year. You want to look back on this year as an exciting year where you shared new adventures with your friends and as a year where you accomplished your academic goals.

6. Find out how you manage stress

Your health comes first, so you must find out what way of decreasing your stress levels works best for you. If you find yourself stressed out about an upcoming test or project, take a break from studying and use what method works for you. For example, I know a late-night drive where my friend and I blast music with the windows down always calms me down. Whether it’s breathing fresh air, listening to music, or watching youtube, find what works for you and use your method of maintaining healthy stress levels.

7. Try something new

It is never too late to pick up on a new hobby, learn a new language, or join a new club. Challenge yourself to step out of your bubble and try something new or befriend someone from a different school. You could quickly discover a new passion just by joining a new extracurricular activity. The Youth Leadership Forum of Birmingham is a fantastic opportunity to explore all aspects of the city with students from all around Birmingham.

8. Find an activity to focus on

Throughout your high school years, there usually is an activity that you are the most passionate about. For me, it was my school’s debate program. Devote your time to what you are most passionate about instead of giving little attention to many different activities. Excel in one activity instead of being average in many activities. Find what you want to prioritize, and prioritize what you chose.


Please don’t be like me. I would sleep around 1:00 am every night, but usually, it wasn’t because I had a lot of work to do, I just stayed up watching Netflix. The next day, I would wake up feeling exhausted, which is not a great way to start the day. Try to sleep at a reasonable time. Even if you did not finish all of your work, it is better to get a good night’s sleep, or you risk being unable to focus on an entire day’s worth of lessons. Sleep deprivation is the easiest way to fall behind in class.

10. Take notes in class

You might think that you’ll be able to remember everything the teacher talked about in class, but I always forget something important. Writing things down is a useful trick to embed information in your memory, and when you are tested on the lesson, you will have notes to study. Organize your binders by subjects, and keep these notes in the correct section of your binder. If you’re the type of person that cannot decipher your own handwriting, type up your notes on a school computer, and then save the document to your drive.


Although junior year seems daunting, don’t let it frighten you. I am confident that your junior year will be a successful one.

Ariel Zhou

Ariel is a student at Vestavia Hills High School and a member of the Springboarders program.

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  • Sela

    Thanks, Ariel! I’m a rising junior and definitely feel super intimidated this year. This helps a lot!

    August 10, 2020 at 11:08 pm
  • aarora04

    Definitely needed to see this!

    August 29, 2020 at 6:07 pm
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