Dear rising junior,
Right now you’re probably busy watching Netflix marathons, spending time with friends, and happily ignoring the pile of summer homework in the corner of your room in an attempt to enjoy the final week of vacation. But somewhere in the back of your mind, behind the fading summer haze, you’re probably feeling a little bit scared. And that’s only natural, because just one week down the road lies what people claim to be the most stressful, terrifying, and miserable part of your academic career thus far: junior year (cue the dramatic music).
I completely understand your fear, because it feels like just yesterday that I was in your place. My thought process last August looked a little something like this: oh my God junior year SATs AP classes I’m not going to have any time for fun I’m so scared what am I going to do please God send me a miracle or a tub of ice cream or something! And this isn’t without reason, because every time someone asks you what grade you’ll be in next fall and you say “junior year,” they give you one of those sad sideways looks or raise their eyebrows and say sympathetically, “Ohh, that’s the hard one.” Then they wish you luck as if you’re about to be thrown into the Hunger Games arena, and you’re left wondering if you should be buying a bullet proof vest instead of the usual binders and notebooks from Staples this year.
But here’s the thing: junior year isn’t actually all that bad. Seriously. Looking back, I’ve realized that it’s not luck or superhuman intelligence that you need in order to come out in one piece, but a positive outlook and some wise words of advice (sorry if you got excited about the bullet proof vest). In this letter, I’m going to tell you everything that I wish someone had told me before I started junior year, in place of the standard “You’re going to die.” Beginning with:
It’s just another normal year of school.
This one appears to be pretty obvious, but junior year tends to seem as normal as Scoville’s wardrobe. In reality, you will go to class, do homework in the afternoons, and get a grade every quarter —simple as that. I’m not going to lie to you, the work probably will be more difficult than it has been in the past, but isn’t that the case with every school year? Sometimes the whole perception of junior year overwhelmed me to the point where I was actually less motivated to do my homework than I had been in previous years. Really, the only significant differences about junior year are a) SAT prep, and b) the beginning of college talk. You can think of SAT prep as no more than an elective class, but college talk is more complicated…which leads me to my next tip:
Don’t compare your best to other people’s bests.
Okay, okay, so I found this saying on a fortune cookie. But if I had to name one thing that I learned over the course of junior year, it’s this. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take this saying to heart, especially in the face of all the college talk that’s beginning to surround you like a really uncomfortable beanbag chair. A big part of college talk is comparisons — comparing yourself and your performance to that of others. It’s easy to get disheartened or feel inadequate as a result, but if you accept that your best is as perfect as it gets, it won’t be so bad. You’ll end up where you need to be and carve your own path to success. And on that note:
Remember that school is meant to serve you, not the other way around.
I think something that we students often forget is that all schools were created with the purpose of providing us with an education. It’s not as if we have to jump through hoops and learn ridiculously complicated formulas to satisfy the school gods or something — at its core, what we do, we’re doing for ourselves. This becomes an issue amidst all of the college talk, when more than ever it seems that we’re doing the whole “school” thing for the sake of a high GPA. But there’s something inherently motivational in the idea that everything we do in school is for our own benefit, all with the goal of helping us grow into better, more educated people. Which brings me to my last point:
Junior year is a really incredible experience.
It may not be a Coachella kind of experience, but junior year is actually a time of great personal growth. You’re no longer unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the school, you’re getting deeper into your extra curriculars, and college questionnaire after college questionnaire might actually help you get a better sense of who you are and where you’re going with your life. Or maybe you’ll just find park and ride fun, and that’s cool too.
Moral of the story: you’re going to be fine this school year. The world is not going to swallow you whole, you’re not going to sink into a pit of depression, and you will still have a social life, promise. Now take a deep breath, relax, and go un-pause Netflix.
Gabi Kamran ‘15