Advice to Juniors
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
I’m a senior right now, and to be honest, it would have been nice to have an extra heads up about how to prepare for senior year, graduation, and college before they all felt like they were right on top of me. I’ve compiled this short list of tips for high school juniors who are planning to go to college, although it can be useful to freshmen and sophomores, as well as students who aren’t planning to go to college or who aren’t sure yet. I can’t promise that all of this advice is going to apply to you, but I hope that by reading this, you will get a better sense of what to do and what not to do, and which of my mistakes to avoid.
1. Start visiting colleges and talking about life after high school if you haven’t yet
You get days off for college visits in junior and senior year. Use them if they are useful, but don’t use them all up if you think that you might need them next year. On a more general level, start putting some serious thought into the location, tuition, and the type of college you want to go to, as well as the subjects you want to study.
2. Sign up for lots of semester classes, but make sure you have some challenging classes
This is a pretty obvious one. You don’t want to be the person taking five midterms your senior year (this was me). That being said, colleges will know what classes you’re taking senior year, so don’t make it look like you’re slacking off. Signing up for classes requires a careful balance, so keep in mind that with senior portfolios and college applications, school work can’t take up all of your time senior year. Maybe don’t decide to fill your schedule with super tough classes. Choose some classes that will challenge you, but not to the point of mental breakdown.
3. Don’t get junioritis
You know how getting chicken pox makes you susceptible to shingles as an adult? It’s the same with slacking off as a junior and getting senioritis. Junior year is a hard year, and everyone struggles at some points, but make sure you do your best to stay on top of, or at least relatively close to, your schoolwork. If you’ve never had a good time management system, this is a good time to start working on that.
4. Communicate with your parents and family about your future
Surprises are fun. I love surprises. Just maybe not when it comes to college. Whether or not it sounds fun, you should try to have a conversation with your parents about what you’re looking for in a college and how you’re going to pay for it. It’s important that everyone is on the same page.
5. Do stuff!
You’re more than halfway through high school! You’re almost an adult! Soon you’ll leave Coe-Brown forever, and whether that sentence is the only thing keeping you going, or it brings tears to your eyes (or a weird combination of both) you’ll feel better after you leave knowing that you didn’t miss out on anything. Go to a play! Sign up for a club! If you’re an underclassman, try doing some of these before senior year. You’ll be a lot less stressed when you happen to have a dentist appointment during the last hypnotist show you’ll get a chance to see if you’ve already been once.
6. ...But not too much stuff
Extracurriculars are great, but make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself in your last year of school. If you’ve always wanted to play the euphonium, then go ahead, but know that you might have less time to practice juggling or watching Netflix.
7. Retake the SAT (if you want)
If you want to get a better score on the SAT, or take any other standardized tests, like the SAT subject tests or the ACT, try to do it junior year. Trying to cram it in during the first months of senior year can be stressful. It’s best to get as much testing out of the way as a junior in case something else comes up next year.
8. Get a sense of which teachers you might want to write your recommendations (and let them know as soon as possible)
If you go to find a teacher to write you a recommendation and realize that they all hate you, that’s on you. Try to be less annoying senior year. Speaking of annoying, don’t give your teachers three days to write a letter of recommendation. If you know you’re going to college, then you know you need a recommendation.
9. Know where you’re applying by the start of the school year
You don’t have to have a completely inflexible list, but don’t be completely lost either. Try have a list of schools that you like, can afford, and can get into. Having a balance of safety and reach schools is important. If you don’t have a list of schools that you’re confident about applying to, you might waste time and money applying to places you don’t want to go.
10. Have at least a rough draft of your college essay done over the summer
This is probably the most common piece of advice, but it’s also the most ignored. I really don’t care how busy you think you are over the summer, you will be busier senior year. Unless you’re literally spending six weeks in a sensory deprivation tank, you should make time to get started on this.
11. And get a head start on college-specific essays
Don’t do these the night before they’re due. Just don’t. You probably won’t finish applying to college over the summer, but try to get prepared. If you finish your college essay, start on your other essays, even if they say that they’re optional. Colleges ask for them for a reason.
12. Do your senior project as soon as possible
It’s great to get it done over the summer, but even if you can’t, you should know what it’s going to be. It’s silly to get stressed out at the last minute because you procrastinated something that you’ve been anticipating since freshman year.
13. Do as many components as possible
You can’t wait until the end of the year to do these because there are deadlines throughout the year, but even if you could, why would you? Some of these are super easy, or even fun, like going to an in school or beyond high school cultural event. Some of them are more difficult and take more planning, so make sure you pay attention. Many components don’t count until the end of the year, but don’t only rely on them. You’ll thank me when your netbook breaks the day before you have to turn it in.
14. Brace for senioritis
I know you’ve “hAd sEniOriTis siNCe fResHmaN YeaR” but you haven’t. Sorry. Senioritis won’t truly hit you until you realize that you have all of your applications in, you’ve finished the first semester successfully, and it feels like nothing you do matters. The problem is that it actually does. Not only will colleges see your final grades, but they’ll also know if you got a detention because of missing work. Possibly even more importantly, if you get a three in effort you’ll lose senior release. And even if none of this matters to you, don’t you want to end high school on a positive note instead of slacking off? If not for yourself, then out of respect for your teachers. Trust me. They’ll know. (Hi Mr. DePalma)
15. Manage your time
Short term and long term. Make a schedule of your long term deadlines and stick to it. Do the same with school work every week or day, depending on what works for you. And don’t underestimate the time you’ll need. Leave yourself extra time to catch up on work in case you fall behind. Remember: if you think you have enough time, you don’t.
Not sound cliche, but you have to take care of yourself. School is stressful, and so is preparing for life in general. Make sure you keep your priorities straight, and don’t stress over minor things. This point in high school can be nerve-wracking, but keep in mind that it’s all going to work out eventually. And if all else fails, remember that Steve Jobs and Ellen Degeneres never graduated from college.