At RAHS, it isn’t uncommon to see a junior student with their hair on fire because of some deadline in their classes. The transition to being an upperclassman brings many stressors such as harder Advanced Placement (AP) classes and preparation for the SAT as well as the ACT. This is all while students must keep up with their extracurriculars and while college applications loom in the distance. But do all of these stressors really make junior year the hardest year at RAHS?
RAHS junior Felix Bosques feels that junior year is certainly not a walk in the park.
“Junior year is definitely an intense year,” said Bosques. “There’s definitely a lot more responsibility and more stress as a result of that.”
Aside from his required courses as a junior, Bosques partakes in other opportunities at RAHS as most students do.
“I’m an ASB officer and a member of RAHS’ Ultimate Frisbee team,” said Bosques, “so juggling around the different responsibilities I have with those [duties] is sometimes challenging to deal with.”
In addition to his extracurriculars, Bosques also has to balance the homework load from his AP classes and a job.
“I’m in AP Lang and APUSH, and the homework in those classes is pretty consistent, along with the workloads from other classes,” said Bosques. “To add onto that, I have a part time job some days after
school that ends pretty late, which leaves little to no time to study or do homework.”
All of these factors add up to a strenuous but manageable experience for Bosques.
“It is hard, but it’s hard enough for me to get used to being able to deal with it,” said Bosques. “Junior year is like one of the eternal pits of Hades, in which you burn in it every day, but it’s just another day.”
RAHS APUSH and Big History teacher Michelle Juarez believes junior year can be the hardest year because of the abrupt change between underclassman years to upperclassman years. As students go into sophomore year, Juarez feels as if most students are accustomed to the RAHS environment.
“My understanding from what students say is [sophomore year] is a breeze,” said Juarez. “Spanish or whatever language they’re taking tends to be difficult because it’s just a lot of content, but they have English and social studies down, in math they know what to expect, so they know what to expect of their teachers. Some students don’t do [their work], but it’s not hard in that way.”
However once sophomores become juniors, the difficulty of school completely changes.
“At the junior level, most students take at least one AP class and it’s just a lot more work and the expectations are that you come prepared and ready to do that work in class, every day,” said Juarez.
Without the cushion of teacher support systems, juniors without their own organizational systems can suffer as a result.
“There’s not a lot of the support systems,” said Juarez. “If they don’t have the organizational tools ready, I’m not spending time telling them to take out their planner, or write down their homework. It’s college level work and they might have two or three or four AP classes, and even if it’s not an AP class, chemistry is really hard, calculus is really hard.”
In addition to the rigorous classwork of junior year, the looming future of college and career adds to Bosques’ stressors.
“I really want to be a famous musician, but my path to college and the future beyond is still blurry to me,” said Bosques. “I’m at the point where I’m at the fork in the road trying decide which side I should take.”
Although junior year can take its toll, Bosques manages the year’s troubles through sacrifice.
“I’ve pretty much discarded my social life at this point in order to focus more on the things that make me happy,” said Bosques. “It’s important to keep a good mental state when facing a lot of stress, and if it means putting aside some personal time, then it’s definitely worth it.”
RAHS Counselor Katie Carper believes that junior year can certainly be the hardest.
“It depends on what classes you choose to take and you’re approach and threshold for work and all that stuff,” said Carper. “I think it can be [the hardest year], definitely.”
Carper advises students who aren’t ready for extreme schedules to avoid taking the most strenuous classes available.
“There is a reality of college admissions; you want to take a challenging schedule,” said Carper. “I think 90% of the staff is on the same page of ‘don’t over do it just to look good on paper’. That’s not worth it. You’re going to pay a high, high price if you take 5 AP classes and you’re not ready for that.”
For Carper, learning how to ask for help is a useful skill for juniors, especially those struggling in a class.
“I tell students that I go with them if I need to to approach their teacher and they always end up feeling better after they do that, even if it’s hard, even if you’re ashamed at your grade because you’ve never gotten anything besides a B,” said Carper. “Once you’ve had that conversation you feel a million times better because all your teachers here have struggled. We’ve all had struggles in our lives that we’ve had to ask for help with and if you haven’t learned how to do that junior year is a great time because you’ll eventually ask for help.”
RAHS junior Kayla Hoang believes that junior year is harder than underclassman years.
“Junior year is definitely more challenging, especially with the pressure to take more AP classes and to score a good score on the SAT,” said Hoang, “like my good friend Oliver Low (another RAHS junior), who scored a 1580, and made a YouTube video called “Deciphering the SAT.”
Hoang agrees with Juarez on the lack of teacher assistance making junior year harder.
“Teachers also seem to expect more from you as well, you don’t really have the micromanaging or Lanschool threats anymore,” said Hoang. “Instead, if you waste your time, it reflects in your grade or amount of sleep you get. However, there do seem to be less formal presentations, which always stressed me out in my underclassmen years.”
Hoang is enrolled in several AP classes and is also a member of Satellite Team and the International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) team.
“I am currently taking 3 AP classes: APUSH, AP Calculus AB, and AP Language. I am part of Space Launch Team, which was formerly known as Satellite Team, and informally known as Joshi’s Propulsion Lab (JPL), where I am currently trying to learn new skills needed to help build a payload for a launch,” said Hoang. “I am also a member of the ISSDC team, and my grade for Flight by Design is dependant on the work that I do in this club-class team.”
Although her class choices and extracurriculars add some stress to her life, Hoang enjoys the work she gets to do.
“These things definitely take up a significant portion of my time, but I truly enjoy doing all of these things,” said Hoang. “Sometimes it makes life a bit more stressful, but keeping an eye on the future and remembering what this is all for makes it more bearable in the worst moments. I also have a lot of friends that participate in the same things, and there’s just a bond you have with someone after you struggle with so much stress.”
Though AP classes are demanding, capable students shouldn’t be too worried.
“I would tell myself that I should not stress too much at the beginning of the year with AP classes, because grades tend to fluctuate frequently, and I gave myself a lot of grief being very worried about those classes, and now I’m pretty content with my grades. I would also start SAT prep around Thanksgiving instead.”
Whether junior year crushes a student or a student crushes it, junior year is ultimately a learning experience.
“Well, going through a challenging Junior year probably makes it easier for you to go through Senior year, and colleges tend to focus on what we do this year,” said Hoang. “There’s also a rush of adrenaline or stress that seems to be oddly satisfying to me, especially when I finish a test feeling that I good about it. Taking challenging AP classes also sets you up better for college, and helps you learn how to cope with high levels of stress.”