A Guide to Navigating Junior Year


Photo courtesy of Brendan Bassett

Pursuing a leadership role in your junior year, such as these Interact officers, is a sure way to improve your junior experience.

Oliver Hurst, Staff writer

Looking back over my past three years at Chamblee, I have really grown as a person and enjoyed my time. For the most part. High school is an awesome time, but you cannot discount the huge amount of work and stress, especially at Chamblee. Although I only know my own experience, and each person takes widely different paths, the following guide will hopefully navigate the dreaded junior year, full of standardized tests, hard courses, and, of course, loads of stress.

1- Pick a Realistic Schedule

Junior year really starts your sophomore year with the classes that you pick. I cannot lie and say Chamblee is a relaxed school, especially if you are in the magnet program or take gifted classes. There is definitely pressure to take as many AP courses as humanly possible, but try to ignore that and focus on you. I am not saying flat out that you cannot take five or more APs; there are certainly people that can. But before you choose to do that, genuinely think about what your limit is. If you are someone who knows that they need extra hours to study, then you probably should not be taking a ton of APs. You should also consider your interests. For example,  if you do not like math and do not plan on doing much with it in college, then you definitely do not need to take AP Calculus AB until senior year, if at all. Finally, you should also consider your extracurriculars. Don’t overload yourself with hard classes if you play multiple sports or have other commitments.  

Photo by Ashley Veazey.
A spread from senior Ashley Veazey’s bullet journal.

2- Get Organized

You will not get through junior year if you do not have at least some semblance of organization. It does not matter how many APs you take or how many sports you play or anything else you do out of school. You have to stay on top of a lot of things. You have to keep your grades up, make it to club meetings, volunteer, take the SAT or ACT, and maintain a social life to mention a few. If you want to even attempt to accomplish everything necessary in junior year, staying organized is a must. For some people that means keeping a simple schedule; others prefer bullet journaling. All that matters is that you figure out some method that works for you, probably in your sophomore year, and stick to it.

3- Surround Yourself with the Right People

Regardless of how well you accomplish the first two steps, if you do not surround yourself with the right people, you will not get through junior year. Try to take your first two years of high school to figure out who you enjoy being around and, more importantly, who supports you. Junior year is hard enough school wise; you do not want to have to devote extra time to dealing with friend drama or a toxic person in your life. And the right people will mean different people to everyone. Some may need a group of people that are ready for them emotionally, while others need a group that is always up to hang out and just be together. Whatever ‘right’ people means for you, find them and stick with them. If you decide to get serious about school or take a bunch of APs but the rest of your friend group either does not care about school and/or will not support you in your stressful endeavor, you should probably find a new friend group. I know that is difficult, but it is vital to surviving junior year. You need to have a group of people that care about you and will support you throughout this stressful year.

4- Stay Involved

As you begin your junior year, you will invariably be overwhelmed. Your course load will seem insurmountable and your goal SAT or ACT will feel out of reach. That said, do not stop participating in your extracurriculars. It will seem that there is just not enough time in the world to do this, but extracurriculars generally offer more stress relief than they could ever cause. Not to mention, they are important for your college applications. So really try to stay active in the clubs and activities you do. Sure, you might have to miss a meeting or event here and there, but they will help you have a better year. 

5- Lead

In addition to taking part in extracurriculars, it is also important to find your voice and lead in one or so clubs or activities. I know this seems like a gross simplification; you are probably thinking, “It is not that easy to get a leadership position.” If you are, then you are right. Leadership positions are hard to get and a lot of work, but they pay off. Not only do you learn skills that will help you when trying to get jobs, colleges and scholarships love seeing leadership experience on applications. So find something you are involved in and ask about how you could help more and lead or run for a position. Leadership does not even have to be in a club. If you work, try to be promoted to a better position. Regardless of how you do it, find a way to get a leadership position. It will pay off in the long run.

6- Start Early

This next step will not necessarily help you with surviving junior year, but it is one of the most important things juniors can do to get ahead for senior year. Start your college applications. One thing that people often care to mention about senior year is that it is hard too, especially during first semester when pretty much every college has their application deadlines. So, to alleviate future stress, definitely try to narrow down your colleges and start the Common App. Generally, regardless of where you are applying you will have to fill out the Common App. Start filling out that basic, background information early. It is a very simple task but takes a long time and is just very tedious. Also, try to get started on your main Common App essay. The prompts almost never change between application cycles and it takes a long time to write. You do not need to finish it necessarily, but definitely write a draft or two of it.

7- Stay Positive 

Finally, stay positive throughout junior year. Yes, it will be a stressful year filled with mountains of homework, tests, and papers, but by the end of it, you will be one short year away from graduation. That also means you will be one year away from leaving Chamblee and going onto your next step. And you will (hopefully) be surrounded by friends that are there for you and probably go through the same stuff you are So, remember that and keep your head up as you go through junior year. 

Again, I know that these instructions are only informed by my experiences and may not fit your life perfectly, but I hope these pretty generalized steps help you survive a stressful year. Good luck!