Junior Year: Is it really that bad?

By Alessandra Colella

As the Class of 2019 approaches the midpoint of their junior year, it is important to reflect and assess if this school year has lived up to its negative expectations. Junior year has built up a reputation for being the hardest year of one’s high school career. Juniors must take the ACT or SAT, visit colleges, build up their resumes, take driver’s ed, and most importantly, keep their grades up. What is it about junior year that gives it its reputation? Is it the truly a greater workload or is it just students’ packed schedules?
Junior year has had the reputation of being incredibly stressful and busy for students. Often called “He11 Year”, this third year of high school seems to be filled with dread not only at Byram, but in schools across the country. When people learn that you are entering your junior year, students often receive remarks such as, “Good luck!” or “Have you started looking at colleges?” or even, “This is going to be a hard year for you!” When you ask older students how their junior year was and if you should be worried, many tell you “Yeah, junior year is the worst!”
To begin answering this question, we must understand what changes during a student’s junior year. In January of sophomore year, students are given a list of AP classes that they have the opportunity to take, which includes several more than previous years. Most students are taking at least one AP class and many take more than that. Because of what is available, students are inclined to take advantage of these opportunities and fit more AP classes into their schedules. As students take more AP level classes, their workload increases. It is a direct relationship. This may be one of the many reasons why junior year can be so hard for students. However, it is important to consider those who do not take as many AP classes or any at all. Is their workload just as hard? English teacher Mr. Hubbs, who teaches both sophomores and juniors classes, says, “I don’t know if I would say the workload is greater or less, but I would say it feels a little different”. Junior, Rachel Chernoff explains that she feels she does not have a significantly more amount of work than she did last year, and says “I think that for the people who don’t take AP classes, there is not as much work, but the pressure to do well in those classes is much higher.” Students often feel on edge because this is the last full school year of grades that colleges will be looking at. This is the last shot for students to raise their GPA or preserve it, which puts a lot of pressure for students to do well in their classes during junior year.
Not only does the workload in school cause stress for students but so do activities outside of school. Most prevalent is the ACT and the SAT, as mentioned in Hayley Siegle’s recent article. Samantha Krevolin says, “The most stressful thing for most of us juniors right now is the SAT or ACT. It just becomes hard to balance as we get more work for school and the standardized tests.” Even parents notice how hard it becomes for their children to balance their in-school and out of school ACT/SAT work. One parent thinks these tests “take a significant amount of time both during the week and on the weekends. In particular, taking practice exams requires a lot of time on the weekends.”
Another important “time suck” that explains juniors’ busy schedules is driver’s ed. Many juniors are taking driver’s ed, to speed up to the process of receiving their senior licenses. While students do say the time spent is worth it to get their senior licenses, a substantial amount of time is spent in driver’s ed during the week. To pass, students must take three hours of the course each week. They spend one hour and a half in lecture, and another hour and a half driving with an instructor and three other students. This time in driver’s ed on top of after-school activities, homework, and ACT/SAT prep can be very hard to fit in.
Junior year, however, seems to depend on the student and what they are involved in. Hayley Siegel says, “I think it depends on what classes you are taking because certain classes give more work. I knew what I was getting myself into when choosing my classes, so I think it really just depends on your personal choices.” While junior year can be very difficult when managing your workload in addition to other obligations, it seems as though junior year is what you make of it. Rachel Chernoff says, “The thing about junior year is that it’s not as much about the workload, it’s just all of the extracurriculars and what you have to do on top of all of the work that you have.” Juniors – while this year is said to be “one of the most important of your life,” remember to take time to decompress. While you may have days where it seems like you will never get everything done, or just cannot handle it anymore, remember that the most important thing is to take care of yourself. For rising juniors, it doesn’t have to be as bad as everyone says it is. Simply make sure to only bite what you can chew and again, put time aside for yourself. Keep your head up juniors, you are halfway there!