Nicolle Generaux | Newsroom Editor
May 21, 2023
Is junior year the hardest year of high school?
In the simplest of terms: yes, it was. However, that is only true in one way.
Looking back, this year is definitely the most difficult in terms of classes and programs I chose to participate in. Taking three AP classes and other honors courses demanded my time and attention in and outside of the classroom. More homework, more tests, more projects, all in a small amount of time. There is no question that putting my best foot forward in my schoolwork forced me to make more sacrifices: longer study periods, having to choose homework over socializing with friends, less breaks after school, and late nights.
On top of just schoolwork, everyday, I always attended some extracurricular activity, whether it was tennis practice, choir performances, club meetings and projects, Church assemblies or school events, all on top of trying to set aside some free time for just myself. Junior year is, undoubtedly, the hardest year to juggle all high school activities on top of rigorous courses.
However, in another way, junior year was not the hardest. It was the easiest.
Freshman year, because it took place during the height of COVID-19, demanded little academically, but was psychologically draining. The countless hours watching a screen with no actual contact with teachers or peers took a toll on everyone. The days blurred together; one day mirrored the rest: zoom calls, assignments, an occasional quiz, repeat. The schedule never strayed to a more interesting path, always the same perpetual motions lacking any real challenges, not giving any reason for the students to actually desire to learn.
This led into sophomore year, which became quite the opposite: an exhaustive schedule of classes, pressure to understand more in a limited amount of time, teachers and authority figures practically imploring students to engage in as many extracurriculars and leadership positions as humanly possible, all leading to a leering voice that materialized, repeatedly asking the question “are you really doing enough?”
Bearing the weight of all of those expectations for the first time was taxing for myself and I am sure many others. We were thrown into a lion’s den, expected to fight when we had been living on the sidelines for over a year.
Learning to deal with the newly put-upon stress, anxiety, and constant uncertainty in my actions became crucial in my journey as a sophomore; and it is what I have come to believe is the most valuable lesson I learned in high school.
I had to learn how to push past others’ expectations and to ignore persistent thoughts of doubt to be successful. At some point, it was not even the question of if I had the physical and mental capacity to finish everything that weighed on me so – it was whether I completed it with enough precision and efficiency for it to actually matter. A perfectionist’s perspective is the only scope of vision I have ever been able to look through – although it pushes me to do my best, it comes with tsunamis of pressure, whips of dissatisfaction and jabs of self-doubt. So, I always needed to apply myself in everything I did.
Sophomore year was a wake-up call. I had to face the critical eyes of the world telling me what I should and should not do.
And I have.
For the stress, I have learned to enjoy each class, not only with the people I am with but within the curriculum, continuously seeking how each lesson is interesting and why it is worth remembering. I began to appreciate the little things in life that brightened my day, whether it was something I did or something someone did for me. I took things one step at a time when it came to my schoolwork, trying not to overload myself with constant assignments and information, but also not allowing myself to stop trying, even if I felt that the work may never end. I silenced the voice of self-doubt and looked at the bigger picture: that the work I was doing was all for a reason, and would only benefit me in the future.
For the expectations, I took rigorous courses that pushed my understanding and my limits, but not to the point where it consumed my life. I always set aside time for things I love to do because I knew it brought small but impactful ripples of relief. For extracurriculars, I pursued many activities, but only the ones that truly interested me. Tennis, debate, volunteer work for the students or other clubs, reading, and writing. I only chose to take part because it interested me, ensuring that I filled my time with delight and satisfaction.
Most importantly, I became content with what I have done in the last three years. Even if I was unable to execute something perfectly, I can now move on to the next step without looking back because I know that in the end, I did my best. I desire to live without regrets and the constant worrying of not doing enough.
These new skills accompanied me through junior year, allowing me to take on more without experiencing the same stress and weight of expectations that I had originally felt the year previous.
Junior year is the most challenging year in high school – but learning to deal with these challenges is a larger obstacle to overcome than any actual challenge one will face in these four years.