Side note: I am so sorry for the long wait! I just got home from Las Vegas about a week ago, and I had a terrible fever for 3-4 days straight. I did not have sufficient energy to pick up my laptop, but here I am! I’m back and much healthier than before. I will be establishing a weekly schedule for my posts very soon, so stay tuned for that! Anyway, enough with the seasoning – let’s move on to the “meat” of the post…
So you’re about to enter your second-to-last year of high school! It’s an exciting, yet nerve-racking time – you may have signed up for a lot of AP/IB courses, shown interest in a multitude of student organizations at your school, and/or applied for your first job.
Being completely honest, my junior year of high school was definitely not the most difficult, but it was still challenging to some extent. My time management skills were much better than my sophomore year and I focused on developing my leadership skills in clubs that I knew I was passionate about.
If you’re an incoming (or current) junior in high school who is looking for some helpful tips for the school year, here are a few pieces of advice I have for you:
- Start researching colleges.
Although you won’t be applying to colleges or universities until your senior year, it’s a great idea to start looking at schools you’d like to attend in the future. A good way to start out is by Googling “top [your projected major] schools” and browsing through each university that offers your specific field of interest.
If you are still unsure about which school you’d like to attend, don’t panic! It’s extremely common for students to feel uncertain about which major they want to pursue. If this happens to describe you, simply look at colleges with other factors you’d consider to be important, such as location (how far you want to be from home), size (small, medium, or large campus), selectivity, etc.
- Challenge yourself by taking AP classes.
If your school offers AP courses, take advantage of them! AP (Advanced Placement) classes are a wonderful way to not only challenge yourself academically, but to also prepare yourself for the rigor of college courses and beyond.
However, keep in mind that AP courses require much more effort than your typical Honors or Standard classes, so don’t bite more than you can chew! In other words, if this is your first year taking AP classes, try starting off with 1-2 APs in your schedule and see if you can handle that. If that’s too easy for you, then consider adding 1-2 more. I don’t recommend taking more than 4 AP courses at once unless you can handle the challenging coursework.
- Take on a leadership role.
Whether it means being Vice President of Science Club or taking on parental duties at home, find ways to develop and hone your leadership skills. Next year when you’re a senior, you’ll be asked in numerous college and scholarship applications about instances in which you’ve had to assume a leadership role or responsibility, and how you solved any conflicts within that leadership role.
If you haven’t done so already, start searching for ways you can define yourself as a “leader.” Don’t be afraid to think outside the box – you are NOT limited to a club! You can exhibit leadership at home, work, in a sport, etc.
- Start studying (and taking) the SAT and ACT.
I have to confess something: one of my biggest regrets from junior year was not studying enough for the SAT/ACT. My scores weren’t horrible, but they weren’t where they needed to be in order to be considered “up to par” with the average scores from my dream universities.
An amazing resource to use is Khan Academy. Simply create a free account and you get to customize your own SAT Practice schedule! I personally use Khan Academy to study for the SAT and school subjects I may be struggling with, such as Pre-Calculus. I use it about three times a week in 30-45 minute increments each day. Of course, your schedule may be more or less hectic than mine, so feel free to schedule your study sessions differently to cater to your own needs!
You can also take free practice SAT exams on Khan Academy, which are super helpful to see where your strengths and weaknesses are. If you have yet to take the SAT or if you have already taken it and would like to see where you should get some more practice, take a practice test one day, making sure to follow standard testing procedures (i.e. do not use cell phones or any unauthorized electronics, give yourself a 10-minute break, etc.). This way, you will know what to expect on the actual test day and feel much more prepared.
- Around spring or summer, start taking college campus tours.
As senior year begins to approach, I highly suggest starting to visit colleges that you are interested in attending someday. This will help you form a more informed decision on which schools to apply to, since you will be walking along the campus’s halls and getting a more realistic feel of the campus’s “vibe.”
However, if you live on the west coast and are looking at schools on the east coast (or vice versa), taking campus tours may not be feasible for you due to the cost of buying plane tickets for you and your family, booking a hotel, etc. For this reason, I recommend starting with universities that are closest to your hometown and considering branching out from there. For example, I live in Southern California, making it much more convenient for me to visit UCSB, UCLA, and UC Irvine rather than New York University, Harvard University, and Georgetown University (all of which are phenomenal schools).
The best way to visit a college is to schedule a campus tour. To do this, simply go on the university’s website, head on over to their undergraduate admission’s page, and browse for any links that say “Visit” or “Take a Tour.” For schools that are a considerable distance away, they may have an option on their website for you to take a virtual tour, which is essentially an online tour of their campus. Granted, it’s not as personable as a physical tour of the school, but it’s better than nothing!
- Gain a stronger connection with your guidance counselor.
If you’re anything like me, you probably despise the prospect of asking people – especially older adults – for help. But one person you should never fear is your school guidance counselor. In fact, I would suggest becoming great friends with him/her!
Establishing a positive connection with your counselor is extremely vital as he/she will be guiding you through the college application process next year when you are a senior. You can even ask your counselor for recommendation letters when applying to colleges and/or scholarships!
So if you have yet to step foot in your counselor’s office, make an appointment with him/her as soon as possible to introduce yourself and ask any questions you may have about high school, academics, college, etc.
- Attend – and be an active participant in – college fairs and presentations.
If your high school hosts any college expositions or if college counselors come to your class to do a presentation, do yourself a favor and take advantage of them!
Last year when UC Berkeley was at the tippy-top of my dream universities, I heard that admission counselors from UC Berkeley were going to come to my high school for an annual college fair. On the day of the college fair, I bolted – not walked – straight to the UC Berkeley booth, introduced myself to the admission representatives, signed up for their email newsletter, and grabbed each and every single handout they displayed.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you need to be obsessive over a school in order to show interest in it at a college fair, but be engaged. Read about the college using any trifold boards or handouts that may have at your convenience. Ask questions to the school representatives at the college fair – they are there for YOU!
Also, take this opportunity to look at colleges other than the ones you are interested in applying to, including colleges you’ve never heard of, colleges that have a bad rap, and colleges that may seem out of your reach because of their “prestige.” If the university is there for students like you, then it is definitely possible to be admitted there!
- Start searching for what makes you, you.
Although you are still young, now’s a wonderful time to start soul searching! Finding yourself – especially in a place like high school – is crucial. By learning who you truly are, you will choose the right friends, be in the right extracurriculars, and determine how you shine as an individual.
You can start off by learning what you’re passionate about. When you’re not on your phone, what do you love to do on your free time? Do you like reading for pleasure? Do you enjoy drawing? Do you have a strong affinity for a certain sport? Take junior year as an opportunity to discover your hobbies and develop them so you can improve your skills overtime. Who knows – maybe your hobby may turn into a portfolio someday!
- Don’t be afraid to try out new things.
Throughout the span of my junior year, I quit 4 clubs. Sounds like a lot, right? It may seem like a ton of extracurriculars to drop, but to me, they felt like absolutely nothing. They had no significance to my future academic plans, nor were they super fun to me, so I left and moved on.
Since then, I have joined 4 new organizations – in and out of school – that have served a purpose in my life and are extremely important to me.
What am I trying to say here? Don’t be scared of quitting something mediocre so you can experience something better.
If something in your life is weighing you down, cut it out from your life! Whether it’s a club, job, friend, or relationship, you should not purposely spend time around people or situations in which you are not happy. Always surround yourself with positivity and activities that you actually love to do, not what others are pressuring you to pursue.
This brings me to my next point: never join a club because you think it will look good on your college application or résumé. This one is overlooked often, but when you join a club simply because someone told you to, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you were to be interviewed on a specific club and you were not a fully passionate, involved member like you stated you were in your application, do you think your interviewer would take you seriously as an applicant?
Be conscious of what you include in your schedule, because what you surround yourself with – whether you love it or hate it – is what you eventually become.
- Get some sleep!
It’s inevitable that you’re going to receive piles of homework, especially if you’re tackling a couple AP classes during your junior year. But it is of significant importance to aim for at least 8 hours of shuteye every night! If 8 hours seems as if it’s way out of your reach, at least 6 hours of sleep should be sufficient for you to feel sane the following morning.
Without sleep, you won’t be able to focus in class, which will be detrimental to your grades, as well as your physical and mental health. In addition, lack of sleep may pose some serious health risks. Sleep is absolutely essential to being a successful student, no matter what grade you’re in. Be sure to get plenty of rest each night, even if it means squeezing in a 20-minute catnap after school.
Those are all the tips I have for all incoming high school juniors! I wish you all the best of luck during your school year. Sleep well the night before your first day of school and eat a hearty breakfast on the morning of!
As always, I will write again very soon. ♡