Junior provides insight on surviving the dreaded school year he just lived through

Your junior year: A conquerable, yet formidable opponent.

I know how it goes, outgoing sophomores: I was you once — thrilled to be out of the lull that is your sophomore year of high school and ready to join the ranks of the wizened upperclassmen. College begins to feel like a tangible entity. Everything exciting about life as a rising adult seems to be right around the corner.

But just as you feel yourself turning that corner, you hit a wall instead — the dreaded, fabled, stressful junior year. Or at least, that’s what you’ve heard about it.

“Oh, you’re going to be a junior next year? Yikes, good luck.”

“You’re going to hate everything: your life, yourself, your friends. Junior year does things to you, man.”

“I’m not really sure how I got through it. I swear I was on the brink of giving up.”

You can feel it creeping closer as the days wear on: the end of this school year feels surreal compared to the horrors and the workload that lies ahead. You might be staying up into the wee hours of the morning studying for a test now, but there’s always that lingering thought that, “Next year will be even worse and I’m going to die!”

Well, here I am, living and breathing, about 99 percent done with the school year whose horror stories haunted me until I truly experienced it for what it was …

School. Tests are still tests, homework is still homework and classes are still classes. Sure, there are some things that admittedly are stressful, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Junior year, like many things you’ve never done before, seems a lot harder from the outside looking in. The only way you let it get to you is by telling yourself it’s just like you expected.
If you’ve made it this far, I don’t think I need to tell you how to study for a test or come to grips with concepts you don’t understand initially in class, but since many of you who read this might still be convinced that you will be slaughtered by the upcoming school year, allow me to provide some insight on how to “survive.”

1.) Get your homework done — this sounds stupid and obvious, but while you’re goofing off at lunch, your homework load from those AP classes you decided to challenge yourself with is sitting untouched, ready to clog up your evening. Just bite the bullet and do some of it when you get the chance. You will thank yourself later when your friends are complaining about staying up late or feverishly scribbling answers at lunch the next day.

2.) Do not fear standardized testing — you can take the ACT or the SAT as many times as you want, and each time you take it will feel more and more comfortable, especially if you’re doing some prep work on the side. “But when will I have time to do any of that with all my hard classes?” you ask. See step 1.

3.) Don’t be whiny — trust me, everybody’s lives are just as packed as yours is. Telling everybody about why yours is so uniquely difficult is a.) extremely annoying and b.) pointless. What is accomplished by holding a pity party for yourself? It’s only going to make everything feel that much harder. Keep your head down and do what you’ve been doing since the first day of kindergarten when your teacher handed you a 5-digit ID number and said “learn this”: take in information and apply it. It’s nothing new or difficult, so don’t be that kid who everybody hates.

4.) Sleep … when you can — yes, there will be multiple times when you probably have to stay up pretty late for school. For many of you, this concept seems scary and unusual, but I promise you it will not kill you. Will there be some days when you hit a wall and curse your teachers for giving you so much to do? Yeah, probably, but that’s life. This is the one thing about junior year that you should actually mentally prepare yourself for. But again, look at all the people who have come before you. Sometimes sleep was only enjoyed sparingly, but they came out all right. Everybody goes through it and everybody lives. You’ll be fine.

5.) Look forward and count the days — I can’t say that I have truly enjoyed this year. However, whenever things began to feel overwhelming, I reminded myself that all I was working on would pay off in the long run, and that soon enough, it would all be over. The constant activity of junior year makes weeks fly by. Doesn’t it feel like you’ve been a sophomore for about a decade? Comparatively, this next year will be a blink of an eye. Just you wait.

Naturally, I can’t speak for everybody. Some had more difficulty than I did, some had less. I took four AP classes this year, but I wasn’t in AP Chemistry, so the stories you’ve heard from those outgoing juniors might differ slightly from mine, but I promise you this, friends: either way, you will survive.

The walk to and from the Ben Hur will never get easier, AP reviews will be tough and sometimes too much for one night, you will walk into some quizzes totally unprepared and it may take a little while to become acclimated to the homework load. But in 365 days, when you’re where I am, you’ll look back and say, “wow, I can’t believe it’s really over.” You’ll drive out of that treacherous parking pit from hell for the last time, maybe shed a tear, maybe sigh deeply. You’ll have reached the promised land, the proverbial corner: senior year. Who knows what will lie ahead then? The possibilities will be endless.

And in that moment, you’ll swear that you’re infinite. I say that with the sincerest sarcasm I can muster.

May your junior year be filled with good fortune.