Advice for Juniors Battling the Phantom of ‘Junior Year’


Maggie Ryan '15

Junior year — everyone goes through it and everyone has something to say about it. Junior year is associated with stress, tons of homework, and high importance for college.

Everyone hears the message that junior year is the only year that matters when a student applies to college. It’s like a ticker tape that runs through the minds of upper school students that threatens to strangle once you actually begin 11th grade. But thhis belief that only junior year matters for college transcripts is a myth.

Montrose’s own Assistant Director of College Counseling, Ms. Harper, descrambled the myth:  “It does matter how you do in other grades.” Ms. Harper also clarified that colleges “pay more attention to junior year” because it is one of the first times that the student has more say in her schedule. Junior year also offers the opportunity for more difficult classes. She said, “it’s one of the first times that students are allowed to take AP classes, so the colleges like to see if the applicant challenged herself or not.” Ms. Harper also said that when a student sends in an application, she also sends a sheet of paper that has the list of classes offered to the student while they attended Montrose.

So what is it about junior year that makes people so stressed out? Juniors Claire Gerwatowski, Maddie Crump, Amanda Condrin and Kaitlyn Sennott agreed  that the course load is “overwhelming” because the classes are “a lot harder than they previously had been.” They also agreed that 11th grade is more difficult because “the teachers have a higher standard and greater expectation” in junior year than previously.

The pressure to do well in both classes and outside activities weighs heavily on juniors. This also adds to time management challenges. One student said “Sometimes I feel that the expectation to manage extensive academic work with extra curricular, sports, community service/leadership, get enough sleep, spend time with family, and have a social life is overwhelming.” She claimed that it feels so overwhelming, and to do well in everything seems “out of the question.” She added, “Though we are very capable girls, we are still teenagers and want to enjoy high school.”

Juniors expressed confusion over how to sort through the mixed messages they hear in the media, from home, from other worried students and from school. Since the juniors have hardwired the message that junior year is the most important year, it is hard for them to believe that colleges don’t just focus on junior year. This causes much anxiety. The juniors express anxiety over a bad test or quiz grade because they believe that it will really affect their chances of getting into college.This anxiety bubbles throughout the school day and appears on Class of 2015 Facebook page.

Experts advise students not to crush themselves with anxiety. A way to not worry about college is to just focus on the work you have to do that day and then the work you do that night. Just take the challenges one at a time and try your best. No matter what happens you will get into some college, and the hard work will be beneficial in the end.

Be reassured that colleges consider the whole student, which the full sweep of high school grades, activities, recommendations and student essays provides. Colleges look to discover the full picture on each student. Colleges do not just inspect grades junior year. Perhaps the greatest challenge of junior year is developing perspective on these mixed messages. By sorting through all the confusing pressures, you can discover who you are as distinct from others. Discovering and showcasing your uniqueness is the best asset you have for college.

So, be yourself. Ignore the stress-mongers. Distant yourself from the many points of pressure, and silence the outside voices so you can refine your own inner voice. And remember, juniors have many events to look forward to: the trip to Italy, going to Prom and the Junior Ring Ceremony. ‘Keep calm and carry on,’ one step at a time. Before you know it, we’ll be donning the red shoes to match our caps and gowns, making our journeys to colleges near and far. Enjoy the journey!