Open Letter to Juniors

The third year of high school is called junior year, and is usually considered the most difficult year of high school. Juniors typically take more difficult classes and face pressure to do well on standardized exams such as the SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement exams.

Dear Class of 2020,

You are juniors! Hard to believe, right? It seems like just yesterday it was your first day of freshman year, and now you are only a couple short years from graduation. Maybe you’re scared, nervous, or stressed; or maybe you feel excited. However you feel, you’ve probably heard from someone–if not everyone–that junior year sucks. And yes, I used the word ‘sucks’ because that’s how I would describe it. No need for fancy vernacular that you need to take AP English to understand, junior year plain sucks.

Now, I’m not trying to scare you in any way–there are great parts about junior year. For example, you have a lot more freedom. Many juniors can drive, so you have that freedom to take yourself where you need to go instead of relying on your parents. Also, junior year is a huge year for personal development, at least it was for me and a lot of my friends. It is a year for you to really discover your personality and style, as well as growing intellectually. Junior year was the first year I finally felt like I could maybe–just maybe–survive in a college level class, because the classes you will take will help you to discover your learning style and challenge you in ways classes before haven’t.

But with that challenge comes stress. I’m not going to lie to you, junior year is very important. It’s the last year that colleges really pay attention to when looking at your application and transcript. However, having lived through the nightmare that is junior year, I have some easy-to-follow tips to prepare you.

  1. Study! (No, seriously, study.)

Chances are, you’re taking a rigorous schedule of classes this year. Maybe you took Advanced Placement (AP) classes your freshman or sophomore year. You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, I got an A in AP World History and AP Government and Politics, so AP U.S. History and AP English are going to be a breeze!” Right? Wrong. AP U.S. History (APUSH) and AP English are a whole different ball game from any other AP class you’ve taken before. Whether you are taking a bunch of APs or none at all, though, you need to learn how to study. The video below has a lot of great strategies you can use to get the most out of studying.

TL;DW (Too Long; Didn’t Watch) Basically, spread out your study sessions throughout the week instead of cramming the night before, and switch up the topics you study each time. But don’t just read over your notes, start by writing down everything you know about the topic and compare that to what you need to know. Focus on studying the information you got wrong or didn’t remember.

  1. Actually do the readings for class. (Every English teacher will love you!*)

Sure, this might seem common-sense, but as the year goes on, you might find yourself losing motivation to actually read Huckleberry Finn or the textbook. Those SparkNotes will start to look more and more appealing–but don’t fall for it! The teachers will know if you don’t actually read the book, and assignments in and out of class will be a lot harder. It’s so much easier to just read the book in the first place than to go digging through SparkNotes for every assignment to try to answer questions about the book. However, I don’t suggest writing SparkNotes off completely; many literary websites such as SparkNotes or Shmoop can be very useful supplements to your reading. This means that you should do the assigned reading first, and then use one of these websites to help decipher the plot and help you to better understand the book.

*-The Mycenaean cannot guarantee that your English teacher will love you; however, actually doing the readings will help you tremendously in English III, and any English class in the future.

  1. Schedule the SAT and ACT

This website has a very helpful timeline for junior year to assist you in planning when you need to complete certain standardized tests.

TL;DR Here’s a more condensed version of the schedule:

Early fall–Try to take the SAT or ACT or both at the beginning of the school year, especially since it is a lot less hectic around this time of year without AP exams and regular class final exams.

October–Take the PSAT. Sure, it may sound like a waste of time, but it is great practice for the real SAT and if you score high enough, you can be considered for many scholarships. If that doesn’t convince you, then think about it this way: you get out of class for a morning!

Winter and spring–Retake the SAT or ACT or both, as needed. If you are satisfied with your score, don’t waste your time taking it again and again.

February–All juniors will take the ACT during the day at school.

May–Take AP Exams if applicable.

Summer–Try to finish up taking the SAT and ACT.

These standardized tests are a major factor in college decisions and scholarship offers, so take them seriously. But, be careful, don’t take them too seriously; you don’t want to worry yourself sick about the SAT and ACT, because you can always retake them if needed. Another important thing to remember with these tests: study! There are tons of great resources out there to help you prepare for your tests. However, if you don’t want to spend a bunch of money on prep books, you can always use free resources such as Khan Academy.

Personally, I love Khan Academy. It is a great resource that provides plenty of practice tests that are very similar to the actual test, and it provides personal feedback, tutorials, and practice questions to improve on the parts of the test you were the weakest in.

  1. Finally, make time for the things that make you happy.

Sure, school and standardized testing are really important, but so is your mental health. It’s like the safety instructions on an airplane, if the cabin were to lose air pressure, put your oxygen mask on before helping others put theirs on. You can’t help someone put their mask on if you pass out from oxygen deprivation. Similarly, you can’t do your best in school if you haven’t taken care of your own needs first. So, make time to hang out with friends, play your favorite sport or video game, or read a book. Lean on your support system if you need them; your friends, teachers, and counselors all want to help you and support you when you need it. Take care of yourself.

Best of luck during junior year and beyond!

With love,

Erin

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