To Future Juniors,
Junior year is - accurately - dubbed as the most important year of high school. It is when you’ll have the opportunity to take on more challenging classes, start (as well hopefully end) the process of taking the SAT and/or ACT, and build your college list. As someone who is about to become a Senior, here’s my sincere advice to the Class of 2022, and future Juniors.
No one but you knows how much work you can handle. At the end of my Sophomore year, I started to think about what classes I would take as a Junior. At first, I had settled on 5 AP Classes, two of which were one semester long: AP US History, AP English Language and Composition, AP Calculus AB, AP Microeconomics (offered through K12), and AP Macroeconomics (offered through K12). Some people suggested that I take on a lighter course load, but I decided to stick with it and trust myself that I would be able to handle it. When Junior Year began, I discovered that our school would also be offering AP Seminar for the first time. This meant that I had to change my plan to account for this new information. If I decided to take AP Seminar, I would have a course load that was more challenging than the previous one, which some people had already suggested was too challenging. In addition, because AP Seminar added an extra class slot to the schedule of those who took, this also meant I would have to arrive at school before 7:45AM on Wednesdays. I talked to some teachers and tried to get guidance as to whether I should add AP Seminar to my course load, but the truth is that only I could answer that question because I’m the only one who knows how much work I can handle. Next year, when you have to decide your course load, take a moment to think about yourself. If you want to take on the most challenging course load possible trust yourself and your instincts. If you would rather have more time to focus on other areas of school and life, or have other commitments, this is perfectly fine as well.
Standardized test scores don’t define anyone but they are still an important part of college admissions. In October of your Junior Year you should definitely take the PSAT (I also think it is a good idea for Freshman and Sophomores to take it). If you are an American citizen and score highly on it, you can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, which is worth $2,500 and can help you earn other scholarships. If you are an international student (like me), there is one only award I know for which your PSAT score can qualify you: the College Board National Recognition Program. In addition, the PSAT is great practice for the SAT. I was originally planning to take my first SAT in December but, when it came time for the registration deadline, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't quite ready, and had to further prepare for it. Hence, I decided to take the SAT in March. You should aim to take the SAT at most four times; so, by taking your first one by March, you should still have enough test sessions to take it three more times if necessary (though obviously the Covid-19 situation changes this a bit). Additionally, definitely take the SAT with Essay, as some universities still require it. Leading up to the test, the resource I used the most was Khan Academy. It has thousands of practice questions and eight complete practice tests. I recommend that you reserve 3-5 hours each weekend leading up to the exam to take practice tests and review your responses. The best way to improve is to learn from your mistakes. If you do not reach your desired score in your first attempt, don’t worry: you can still take the SAT a couple of more times, or try out the ACT.
Building your college list is no simple task, so you should start in your Junior year and continue during your summer before Senior year. My college list currently has 18 universities, meaning that I should further narrow it down. In the end, your college list should have around 2 “safety” schools, 2-3 “target” schools, and 2-3 “reach/dream” schools. If you are in doubt about the meaning of these terms, take a look at: https://www.thedailyhawk.com/college .
My last advice is: try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every day. Ideally, you should aim for 8 hours, but this most likely won’t be possible. It’s very tempting to reduce your sleep by a couple of hours each day so that you will squeeze in a bit more time to live your life, but your productivity and cognitive abilities, as well as your development, will be impaired by sleep deprivation.