Things I Wish I Knew as a Junior

Things I wish I knew as a Junior
(advice from a graduating senior)

  1. Get Involved. Seriously.
I know spirit weeks, rallies, cooking clubs, and the very idea of cheerleading may disgust you. The idea of spending extra time around people you already see for a mandatory eight hours day can at first sound a little ridiculous, but I promise it’s in your benefit. From an educational standpoint, colleges absolutely live for extracurricular activities. Your chances of admittance into the school of your dreams is heightened when advisors see that you’re well rounded. A student who can manage homework and a social life as well is a good one in their eyes. From a personal point of view, I can tell you that getting involved on campus enriched my high school years exponentially. I joined theater and several dance projects my junior year, and I made friends with people I’d passed by every day for years. I had no idea they had similar interests, and I was shocked to find out that being around these people who love the same stuff felt really fulfilling. I’ve spent hours after school until nightfall editing the school paper and creating campus decorations, and even though I found myself wandering the halls at half past nine, I did it with joy.

2. Get Informed
You know those really long rallies where counselors seem to talk for ages? You know which ones. The rallies where the word “college” is repeated so many times that you can’t even remember its meaning, those ones. Here’s some advice from me to you: PAY ATTENTION. I know you’re probably just glad you can miss some class time and sleep through the lecture, but everything your counselors are saying matters. I went to every rally half-asleep, and I didn’t pay attention to the important things. At my high school, the counselors broached every college topic from applying to the importance of your GPA. That stuff isn’t easy. Deadlines and numbers DO matter. If you want to go to the college of your choosing, pay attention to what it takes to get there.

3. College is expensive - and it’s more than tuition
I always thought college was pricy, but I was under the impression tuition and on campus living were the only things creating the bill. Ha, boy was I WRONG. To even begin your college journey, you have to take the SAT. From the SAT you move on to college applications. Depending on where you apply these can cost up to $100 or more if you apply to multiple schools, and I think it’s crucial to mention you won’t be refunded if you aren’t accepted. After those comes the fees for the placement tests (we’ll talk about those soon, don’t worry), and the orientation and tour fees that also can vary depending on your college.

4. Your GPA matters…
I can’t stress enough how important your grade point average is to college admittance. Freshman and Sophomore year I’m sure it looks like nothing but a small number, lying unimportant on your report card. I wish I had known that it would be one of the first things colleges look at to determine acceptance. Schools like UC Davis and UC Irvine require a minimum of 3.0, but getting into a top-notch school relying on only a GPA of 3.0 - 3.3 can seem like a lost cause. While 3.0 is the minimum to apply, 3.5 is about the average required for actual consideration (at least for a UC). I didn’t know all of that until the end of my junior year, when a trip to the counselor for college planning opened up the realities of my future. If you can push yourself a little harder to maintain that B+, if you know what you have to do to take that D and turn it into a C-, do it. Your GPA matters. 

5. But it doesn’t define you.  
I just stressed to you how much of an impact your GPA has on your future. I think it would be irresponsible of me to mention the only thing more important than that - your mental health. Out of every year in high school, my senior year has granted me the biggest lesson of all. You are more than your grades and your SAT score. Should you aspire to be successful? Absolutely. But success shouldn’t come with such a hefty price like your happiness. If your GPA isn’t a 4.0 or you don’t get into the top college that would’ve set you apart, I want you to know that it’s going to be okay. Your education matters just as much as what you do with it. Going to a school like Yale isn’t very exciting when you’re too overwhelmed with unhappiness and stress to enjoy your life. Whether your journey outside of high school brings community college or sorority sleepovers, make sure you’re happy while you’re on it.