APs, SATs, sports, clubs, competitions, internships. With only 24 hours in a day, it is a big challenge to manage multiple activities and do them well, but most juniors struggle with this challenge every day. With college applications right around the corner, and the pressure to get good grades and score high on the SAT/ACT, junior year of high school may seem like nothing less than a horror story. But juniors and seniors across Montgomery County shared their experiences and agreed that junior year may not just be a nightmare in disguise.
“YOU can only decide how hard [junior year] will be. If you choose to push yourself then of course it will be difficult… but some people take the easier route,” Wootton senior Meghna Thakkar exclaimed. Junior year is really in the students’ hands. They choose what courses to take, and have to manage them accordingly. It can become easy to stress about school, but Poolesville junior Angela Li said “the essential thing for me was learning to manage my time and my priorities, and to not let the stress get to me. Even with the schoolwork, my extracurriculars and being with my friends help[ed] counterbalance the stress.”
Extracurricular activities serve as a fun way to get away from school stress, but some also have enormous responsibilities and requirements of their own. Poolesville junior Christi Fessenden exclaimed that “I’m in the Drama program and have advanced to co-head paint tech, so there’s a lot of responsibility. I have had to manage my duties on my club… [and] maintain decent grades.” Nevertheless, extracurriculars enable students to pursue what they are interested in and have fun doing, even if these activities come with responsibilities and work of their own.
Another aspect of junior year is the dreaded PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT. High performance on these standardized tests can really help to boost up resumes, but the pressure to do well on them while maintaining high grades can really add up. “I think the most difficult part of junior year is taking the SAT/ACT because there is so much pressure to do well, especially in MCPS schools, [where] there is a higher standard,” Thakkar confided. Many students across Montgomery County attend classes and stock up on Kaplan and Princeton Review books to help prepare for the SAT. However, everyone is different. How much practice truly helps is up for the students to decide after they take the test.
Junior year is also very crucial in terms of colleges, as junior year is the year students start deciding what they want to pursue after high school, and start preparing for it. “Junior year is the year that will determine how qualified you are for college. Your GPA, SAT score, and ACT score affect college decisions,” Thakkar observed. Yet despite all of this pressure, students can still do what they like (yes, it is possible). Li shared that “I’m currently prepping for the SATs [and] APs and applying for internships this summer, while continuing to teach myself French and Japanese and be a part of the [Poolesville High School] Linguistics Club. But since I get to do things I like alongside things I have to do for college, it all works out.”
I am a sophomore myself. And after talking to juniors and seniors, I admit I felt scared about junior year. But according to Fessenden, “it gives wonderful results. They push a lot of things on you and it’s hard but in the end it’s very rewarding. I’m working my tail off every day and so far I’ve managed to boost my unweighted GPA by 0.7. It really boosted my confidence a lot.”
Junior year of high school may be hard and it may be “bad,” but in the end it is up to you, the student. What courses you take, what extracurriculars you participate in, how you manage your time; it is up to you to decide. So push yourself, but pursue what you like. Work hard, but don’t stress about the future. After all, your future is in your hands.
Article by Deepti Agnihotri, MoCo Student opinions writer
Graphic by Samantha Wright, MoCo Student staff artist