A (Junior) Year in Review

Happy National Wear Your Lilly Day! It’s officially summer now!

I’m finally done with my junior year of high school! It’s been a crazy year and full of surprises. Since so much has happened this year, I thought I’d share some of the highlights, and some advice, to hopefully help those who will be entering their junior year in the fall.

Everyone calls junior year the most hectic year of high school. While it was at times, it was not too hard to balance. Between college plans, high school classes, and extracurriculars, I found that organization was the key to success. For me, that meant keeping an organized planner and staying on top of due dates and when important events are.

To give you an idea of what my junior year was like at school, I took AP Language, AP US History, College French, Studio Art 2, Physics, College Algebra/Trig, and College Pre-Calc. Four of these classes were “dual-enrollment” with a local college. Though these classes seem super difficult and overloading, it really wasn’t that bad. My teachers were amazing and I always felt comfortable with what I was doing. I will admit that some nights I felt like I was overloaded with homework, but it was all manageable. I felt like I learned a lot this year in all of my classes in terms of both education and life skills. If you know you can handle it, I would highly recommend taking some higher-level classes during junior year, but don’t kill yourself with too much. For me, my schedule felt balanced because the classes I’ve taken in previous years prepared me well, but if you don’t feel comfortable with some classes, don’t stress yourself out. Taking a ton of hard classes but getting less than ideal grades is not beneficial.

On another note, my dance schedule was pretty normal this year. I had the same amount of classes I’ve had the past few years, and only a few extra rehearsals during spring season. Ballet is always a very important component of my life, and thankfully, I didn’t need to sacrifice dance hours for school work this year. I actually feel like my busy dance schedule helps me stay on task for my school work and gives me a constant motivation to stay concentrated and put forward my best work. I felt like I improved a lot in dance and got a lot stronger, and I’m really excited to keep moving forward in dance. (Side note: if you guys want to see more about my dance life, let me know in the comments!)

Unfortunately, you cannot talk about junior year without talking about SATs, ACTs, and college prep. First, be sure to get a prep book or find some kind of online practice before your test. Khan Academy has great free resources, and if you are willing to spend a little more, Kaplan has some good prep books. You want to go into your test calm and confident, not stressed and uncomfortable. Definitely take your SATs and ACTs early so you have time to retake them as many times as you want. I took my SAT back in March, and even though my score was good, I want to improve it. Luckily, I took it early enough that I have time to practice and retake it. I also bought the Question and Answer Service for my first test so I could look over my questions and mistakes and see how to improve.

College prep is a bit different. You don’t need to know all the specifics of what you want to major in or what you want to do in life, or even where you want to go to school. However, junior year is the time to get a vague idea of what you want to look into. Do you want a small or big school? Do you want a school that’s focused on your major or has a wide variety of options? What kind of activities might you want to participate in? With your junior year, it’s best to start big picture and then narrow in on the specifics, especially if you aren’t sure what you want to do. Also keep in mind that community college or online schools can be options for those who still want to find their way or have other paths in life, and a lot of students do take a gap year. No two students take the same path, so don’t feel pressured into doing something because “it looks good” or because someone else wants you to do it. Stick to your heart! Parents, teachers, older friends, and guidance counselors can all be good guides in the process, but there are tons of online resources to help now too! College Board, Cappex, Niche, and Peterson’s are just a few of the online tools that can help you in your college search. It can also help to write down your ideas or organize them on a spreadsheet or digital document.

So far, my college process has been pretty laid back. I’ve visited a few schools so far, and looked into a bunch more. I have accounts on a ton of different websites, and have a decent idea of what kind of school I want to look at. I don’t necessarily have a single, specific major in mind, but I do have a very narrowed list of a few ideas. I know I don’t want a huge school, and I want to go to a school that has a variety of classes, majors, activities, and opportunities. I also want a school where I can study abroad and find internships. I’m still looking into the specifics, but my college list is slowly growing. My school uses Naviance, so I’ve added a few schools I’m really interested in to my list, and I’ve also worked on building my resume. I’ve also asked a few teachers for letters of recommendation. Even though I still have much more to do, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape for college applications. (More college-related posts will be coming soon :D)

I know all of this can be overwhelming, but there is definitely room for fun in your junior year too. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to take a break from my busy schedule and just enjoy myself. In September, I had my Sweet 16, which was the perfect way to both celebrate my birthday and have fun with my friends before school got too crazy again. Back in November, I took two days off from school and went down to Orlando for a long weekend (so much fun!). My performance weekends are always a little stressful, but there’s nothing more enjoyable than performing with my friends and knowing all our hard work has paid off. I visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg ChristmasTown and Dollywood back during the holiday season, and I had a whole road trip for Spring Break. In March, I started this blog, and I’m so glad I did. I’m so happy I found an outlet to combine my love for photography and writing, all while sharing my personality. I’ve also had countless fun moments with friends, and enough time to keep in touch with my long distance friends. One of my favorite moments was going to Semi Formal with one of my best friends, Emma. I also loved having little meet-ups with my long distance friend, Jamie. I even got to raise four baby ducklings in the spring! For me, my junior year wasn’t all work, it was a ton of memories that I’ll hold on to for quite some time.

If I were to sum up what I learned from my whole junior year in a paragraph, I’d definitely have to place emphasis on balance. While school work is important, you also have to have time for fun. Stressing yourself out makes everything so much harder, and you begin to lose out on a lot of amazing opportunities. Everyone has a different life, so everyone will have a different balance. In a single sentence, work hard, but don’t make your life all about work.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this! If you’re going into your junior year, remember to enjoy all of the little moments. Before we even begin to think about school, let’s have a great summer!

See you soon,

Toni

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