Junior Year: Perspectives from the Class of 2023

The life of a junior is crazy and busy and stressful and everything they say it is. There I said it. I deceived myself into believing that it wouldn’t be as bad as everyone says it is, but I give in. I’m the last to admit it: it’s pretty rough out here. Here’s what changed my mind. 

Just this past week, the juniors took the SAT. I’d say that’s an accomplishment. But what’s more was that we studied for it on top of AP classes, homework, extracurriculars, outside-of-Montrose activities, sports, plays, college visits, a social life, driving lessons (for some of us), prayer life, family time—the list goes on and on. 

As juniors, the college application process is right around the corner, and every moment has to be building to the final push next year, or so it feels. There are so many elements to keep in mind, I think my head might explode: college essays, SAT, AP classes, GPA, applying to summer activities, submitting to contests, visiting colleges, demonstrating interest. But why is the process so long and drawn out— almost like a slow and painful death? And what’s worth more: preparing for my future or living in the moment?

It feels almost wrong somehow. The whole process basically encourages inflating your self image and ranking yourself among others, and all for the approval of {insert college of your choice}. My interests, hobbies, passions have been turned into exhibits on display at a gallery. I’m a museum without closing hours. But does it have to be this way?

Ava Ryan ’23 said: “There’s this constant mindset of being like, ‘Once I get through this, I’ll have time to relax.’ It’s this constant cycle of doing something for the future.”

Many girls in my class had a hard time fitting SAT prep into their schedules because of how many activities they had. Elizabeth Barrett ’23 said it was hard to find the motivation to study: “I think it was because of the conflicting things people say. Guidance says it’s really important, but college visits say they’re test optional and don’t really care.”

It’s true, there are so many different sources of information being fed to us at once, and everyone sorts it out in different ways. The tasks that people prioritize will look different for everyone, so it’s hard to tell if what you’re doing is right. It’s a taxing mental process.

The subject of mental health came up in a lot of the conversations I had with my fellow juniors. Anna Proscia ’23 said: “People will say, ‘No, your mental health matters, but in the same breath they say, ‘this is the year that counts and this is what you should be doing.’ I know they don’t say that exactly, but that’s how it feels.”

Julie Baker ’23 takes four AP classes and has found this year the most anxiety inducing of all. She said: “We don’t have time for a social life or things to actually calm us down. I’ve never had more anxiety. Like I have never had anxiety before, but this year I just have it all the time.” Other students also pointed out how difficult it is to prioritize your mental health when the high school schedule is so unforgiving. The stress of missing a single day often takes away from the restoration that day could’ve brought.

So what is to be done? Are we to just accept the fact that this is the way the process is? Are we to let our stresses keep us from enjoying our young adulthood? Are we going to disregard the whole process altogether in revolt?

No way. We don’t have to conform to the system, but we also don’t have to rebel against it. We do have to accept, though, that junior year may be the most crazy and busy and stressful year of our high school careers. We can’t change that. There’s a hundred things to do every second of the day, and it all piles up until, one day, you’re doing things just to keep your head above the debris. 

But, if you’re given the choice between studying for the SAT, and going out with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, choose the friend every now and then. For me, after I let go of these two certain habits, I became a little more balanced (both activity wise and mental health wise). The two habits were perfectionism and always saying yes. You may think you can take on everything and do it perfectly, but you can’t. That’s just a fact. And in junior year, you’re gonna feel pressure to do just that because you have to build your college resume, you have to keep up your grades, blah, blah, blah. At some point, it’s just noise, but in the deafening pressure of all that noise, you’ll find the silence you need to choose for yourself. 

This isn’t all to say that junior year is no fun at all. But you have to allow the fun in. It will be over sooner than you know it.

Elyza Tuan ‘23, Co Assistant Editor-in-Chief