Junior year: a year characterized by chaos, core memories, and cherished relationships. It was a year filled with tough challenges, authentic friendships, and record-high stress levels. Needless to say, it was a roller coaster of a time. I’m writing this article with two more “official” school days left as a junior, so I think I’m in a pretty good place to reflect on what many dub the most difficult year of high school.
Junior year is difficult
To begin, I must confirm that the rumors are true—junior year is extremely difficult. While I don’t yet have the experience to determine whether or not it is the most difficult year, I can attest to the challenges that the nature of the year imposes. Mainly, juniors find themselves stressed about preparing for college applications, from taking the ACT or SAT to ensuring that all their ducks are in a row in regards to grades and extracurriculars. Similarly, juniors tend to get involved in more extracurriculars and take on new leadership positions. For instance, I joined my school’s mock trial team and my city’s Youth Philanthropy Council this year, and I also took on an elected position within GirlSpring’s Springboarders, the teen leadership team.
It was a lot—my Google Calendar was consistently packed to the brim with meetings, socials, and events. Before this year, I had never been this busy. And as it turns out, this business made my year all the more fun. Getting plugged into new groups allowed me to explore my interests and find my people—if I hadn’t joined mock trial, I likely wouldn’t have met some of my best friends.
It’s all about finding balance in your activities. If you’re looking to get more involved in your school or community, be sure to choose your activities selectively. Only join the clubs or teams that truly interest you and make you excited; if you don’t, you’ll likely have a subpar experience. Plus, by exploring your interests through extracurriculars, you can hone in on potential career options. For instance, before joining mock trial, I seriously considered going into law. After taking on the role of attorney, I decided that law isn’t the best fit for me; however, I never would have known that if I hadn’t taken the leap of faith and tried something new.
That brings me to my next point: push yourself. Step out of your comfort zone—you’ll regret it if you don’t. There are far more positives than negatives in just about any situation that involves challenging yourself and broadening your horizons. Take the leap: sign up for that challenging math class you’re on the fence about, and audition for the group that you’ve been too nervous to put your name down for. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll probably forget about the loss in ten years’ time, but if it does work out, you’ll remember the experiences for a lifetime. By pushing yourself, you’ll learn more about who you are, what you like, and what your limits are. Self-exploration is crucial in this season of your life.
Be stingy with your time
However, it’s important not to push yourself too far. I think one of the key mistakes many students—including myself—make in their junior year is spreading themselves too thin. You sign up for a bunch of clubs just so you can put them on your college applications, but then you find yourself overwhelmed with responsibilities and tasks. Preventing you from truly investing your time in a club with a cause you’re truly passionate about. This comes back to choosing your activities selectively.
Be stingy with your time. Realize its value. There are only so many waking hours in a day, and it seems that during junior year, the number of those hours is far too small. Invest your time in the activities and classes you’re passionate about because, ultimately, they will provide you with the most enriching experience.
Also, don’t forget to factor in rest days. Something that I had to do several times over the course of the year was take a day off of school as a “mental health day”. I realized that, in order to keep moving forward with my busy schedule, I needed to take time to recharge. But that time can’t just be limited to one day every couple of months; instead, set out some time at least once a week to put your books away and simply do something you enjoy.
Find your people
Lastly, a social revolution takes place during junior year; at least, one took place during mine. By involving myself in new activities based on my interests, I found some of my best friends. Not only did I embrace my interests, I also embraced who I am as a person: my priorities, my values, and my unique sense of humor. Doing so allowed me to attract friends who understand me and my strange jokes and who emulate my nerdy passion for school. There is no way I would have been able to push through the overwhelming nature of this year without having these friends by my side, pushing through it with me. I encourage you to find your tribe—people who care about you, share in your aspirations, and have personalities that complement yours. These friendships made my junior year a memorable year that I will miss, despite the myriad of challenges it presented.
As I said, junior year is a roller coaster of a year. There are ups and downs, and it often feels like you are hurtling through space towards one final goal: senior year. My final piece of advice to you is to not get caught up in the direction of the track or the speed of the ride vehicle. Don’t overanalyze every detail. Instead, enjoy the ride.
For more advice on tackling high school, visit What to Do the Summer Before Junior Year