Facing junior year

What do high school students dread more than anything else? Well, it isn’t trying to find a date for prom! It is a teenager’s equivalent to Judgment Day: junior year. (Cue the scary music!) Junior year is notoriously known as the toughest and most challenging year of all. However, with a clear understanding of the challenges and a good attitude, you can survive junior year with confidence and pride.

Junior year is when most students start preparing for college. It is our last chance to prove ourselves because college applications are due as early as the beginning of senior year. Therefore, senior year usually isn’t seen as being significant as junior year.

Like other high school students, I used to cower at the thought of junior year. I often heard stories of overwhelming Advanced Placement and Honors classes, all-nighters, packed schedules, and, worst, cracking under the pressure. I wish someone had told me earlier that junior year didn’t have to be as terrifying.

Challenge yourself

Colleges are looking for someone who is not afraid to take on a challenge, work hard, and eventually emerge successful. Junior year is your “show-off” year, so don’t be afraid to take a difficult course. Fill your schedule with Advanced Placement and Honors classes, but be sure you can handle them.

When I was picking out my courses, I was confused as to how many challenging classes I should take. My guidance counselor advised that I should challenge myself in subjects I enjoyed, and not just for the college application.

Interact with teachers

Most colleges require every high school student to submit two teacher recommendations and one guidance counselor recommendation. These recommendations are supposed to give colleges an idea of what kind of person you are. Students are encouraged to choose junior-year teachers to write their recommendations. Take some time to analyze your performance in each of your classes. Which teachers know you the best and can accurately relay your achievements? To ensure a stellar recommendation, it is imperative that your teachers and guidance counselor know you well.

Think about college

Junior year is a great time to start researching colleges. I began thinking about myself and what type of college I would fit into. Would I need a large learning environment or a small one? Did I need to be near a city? Looking at colleges’ websites helped me get an idea of what schools I would apply to. With the power of the Internet, it isn’t difficult to find information on the college application process. Also, talk to a few college friends or seniors at your school. They often have plenty of advice to offer.


A huge part of junior year is the exams and tests. Probably the most important test you’ll is the SAT or ACT. Most New York City students choose to take the SAT. There are plenty of ways to prepare for this test, and many students choose to take prep classes.

However, I decided to study on my own because of the wide range of resources available. The library has a collection of prep books, which I wish I had used more frequently. Even the College Board provides a free SAT Question of the Day, which is a painless and effective way of practicing exam questions daily.

It is also important to take SAT subject tests if you plan on applying to a variety of colleges. Choose two subjects you feel most comfortable with, or maybe take three to ensure the best possible grades. However, from my personal experience, don’t try to cram all three exams in one day!

Stay busy

Junior year may be trying and difficult, but it does not mean that you have to relinquish all your passions, hobbies, and outside extracurricular activities. Strike an ideal balance between academics and fun. During my junior year, I still pursued my interests in music and skating. I also took classical voice lessons because I really enjoyed singing.

When it comes to activities at school, there is no need to give those up, either. Instead, try to take a more active and important role in these activities. For example, obtain a leadership role in your favorite club. You can expand your horizons and develop a closer relationship with other members. You will also learn how to formulate and implement policies. This can help to improve your confidence and teach you important management skills.

Grades come first

Colleges view grades with the utmost importance. Your grades should come first. Junior year is the time to set your priorities, work hard, and deliver.

Despite my preconceptions of junior year, it happened to be my favorite year in high school thus far. Was it difficult? Definitely. However, overcoming the challenges and eventually succeeding made it worthwhile. I was proud of what I achieved and the journey was an experience of a lifetime.

Aglaia Ho is a 17-year-old student from Queens who enjoys writing. Her work has been published in Creative Kids, Skipping Stones, Daily News-Children’s Pressline, and The State of the Wild.