Just Jones

To Sink Or To Survive: Junior Year


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

The class of 2023 was the first class to complete junior year fully in-person in two years, and it came back with a bang. As I approach the beginning of my senior year, I still can’t help wonder what actually makes junior year so torturous. On paper, the year seems doable, but somewhere in a mix with the culture at Parker and the pressures we put on ourselves, junior year turns into this hybrid monster that we feel we can’t survive. So I take to my new column to attempt to make sense of this madness. 

To start, I’ll tackle the most obvious hurdle: the ACT/SAT. For me, the hardest part about standardized testing was coming to terms with the fact that a two-digit number could possibly mean more about me to a college admissions officer than my passions, interests, work ethic, and character did. In the end, I was lucky enough to beat the beast by February of this past year. The anxiety I felt during the weeks leading up to the ACT still scares me today, but the thing about these tests is that they’re not going anywhere. Every single year, juniors around the country will have to rally their stopwatches and scantrons, and devote a good amount of their waking hours to these tests. My biggest piece of advice is to do the ACT/SAT early. Though still daunting, junior year got a whole lot better when I wasn’t haunted by science sections and #2 pencils. I also promise you that your ACT score is never who you are and it never will be. Learning to separate our identities and the pressures we begin to face about our future during junior year is integral to staying afloat. 

Next, the future. College for so much of our freshman and sophomore years is merely an idea and not at all a real or close concept. Junior year is especially hard because we no longer can pretend that our futures don’t exist. Over the year, I visited college campuses, took my standardized tests, signed up for hundreds of mailing lists, and was constantly bombarded with the big question: where do you want to go to college? Seemingly, it was impossible to not constantly be thinking about my future. For the most part, I would say that it’s not at all a bad thing to start the college process a little early. Thorough research and deciding what I did and didn’t like early on has helped me a lot as I approach November 1. Most importantly, I finally began to give some serious consideration to what I’m actually interested in learning about. So don’t ignore your future during junior year, but also don’t obsess over it. 

The junior year coursework itself is difficult and definitely time consuming. I will admit that on my own doing I ended up in a double-English, Advanced Physics, Precalc, and Spanish Five situation, but so did a lot of juniors. Each night we had hours and hours of homework, from science labs analyzing our homemade rockets to close studies on Jay Gatsby and Hester Prynne. Inevitably, our harder classes unloaded harder workloads. There’s an amount of work that you just can’t do, and sometimes our teachers don’t always see this, but most of the time they’ll understand. I promise that if you work hard and do good work, your junior year classes can actually be fun, and maybe even an escape from everything else going on. I shamelessly will admit that I lived for (most) of my American Lit. classes, hallway-lab days in Physics, and the occasional Friday Spanish Five-sponsored Starbucks runs. 

For me, the most fun part of the year was getting to relate to just about every single one of my classmates. Coming to class and comparing sleep schedules, tedious annotation check grades, and after school workloads, in a twisted way became a regular device for bonding between me and my peers. As stupid as it sounds, junior year helped me understand that it’s okay not to hide the rough patch you’re going through. Parker Upper Schoolers are very good at making it seem like we can do everything. Stubbornly, we blind ourselves to so many things in trying to keep up with a perfect facade. I can tell when my classmates stay up all night, or when they didn’t expect to fail a test, just like my classmates noticed when I started having an energy drink every morning. In an institution that so heavily strives to model a home, it took junior year for me to really lean on classmates and ask them for help. We all needed support. That Parker “help don’t hinder” Kool-Aid finally began to resonate with me this past year. 

There are two big reflections that I have in looking back at junior year: stop and enjoy every moment with your peers, and this is only the beginning to all the challenges that we will face in our future. At Parker, we need to stop catastrophizing junior year. Though at many points not completely an enjoyable one, junior year was a perfect reminder that sometimes you have to bust your butt and finally admit that you in fact, can not do everything. In looking at our futures, we need to be able to multitask, manage our time, and be unafraid of challenges. To survive in the world, we need to eventually develop a work ethic. Junior year sucks, and that’s just a fact, but you just have to persist through it. 

My final piece of advice is, don’t forget to stay present. Focus on your friends, your classmates, your schoolwork, and your passions.