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Junior year: There are challenges and opportunities

What is it like to be a high school junior? It is a year before you face actually graduating from high school and entering the adult world. But still the work done in the junior year is vital to eventual success in graduating and getting in the best position for whatever you plan for your life after high school.

Nicolette Harper, a junior at Petal High School, is enjoying her junior year. It isn’t all an easy road. But the challenges are helping her grow.

“It is a lot of fun, but I’m under a lot of pressure because I want to do my very best in my classes,” Harper said. “I love high school. I love learning and challenging myself, and this year has definitely allowed me to do that. My variety of classes and great teachers are allowing my level of knowledge to expand greatly. And it’s a lot of fun being considered an upper classman.”

The worst part is her schedule. She is taking hard classes, and they are all back-to-back. She has a very difficult schedule that requires a whole lot of work, but she choose the challenging coursework because she knew that is what it would take to prepare herself for college and life after high school.  

In addition to taking challenging courses, juniors should also be involved in extracurricular school activities and community volunteer work.

“Get involved in activities at school,” said Dawn Tisdale, a counselor at Petal High School. “Run for student council. Become a class officer or club officer. Build your community service resume. Take classes that will assist you with the ACT/SAT and also prepare you for college. Most of all, have a good time doing it.”

Tisdale said it is important as a junior to begin creating a resume of activities, honors and awards, community service and leadership positions. Add to the resume by participating in school and community events. 

You should also begin a list of colleges you are interested in and request information from those colleges.  Become aware of dates when you can begin to apply.

“When opportunities arise, visit those colleges and meet the admissions recruiters,” Tisdale said. “Begin looking for scholarships. Visit your guidance counselor to obtain information. Also, use the free, on-line scholarship searches that are available.”  

Dana Larkin, parent advocacy director for Parents for Public Schools–Greater Jackson, said being on a college track ideally starts in kindergarten.

“Educators and parents should introduce the word ‘college’ by the time the student enters kindergarten and it should be reinforced at every grade level along the child’s K-12 education,” Larkin said. “Parents and schools should work together to surround the student with a college-going environment. They should encourage and expect the student to do his/her best and fulfill the requirements to complete thirteen years of school so that the student can be accepted and successfully matriculate into college. Before the student enters ninth grade, the expectations should be so ingrained that the student will choose to take rigorous college bound courses.”

Larkin said college admissions officers want to know that students are ready to successfully complete college courses and graduate in a timely manner from their university or college.  

“Students need to take the rigorous courses in high school mentioned previously to prepare them to compete at the college level,” she said. “So, in middle school students should take courses that will put them on track to take college preparatory courses in high school.  For example, students should take Algebra 1 in the eighth grade so they can then take calculus by their senior year of high school.

 Juniors should continue on the high school course of taking four years of core subjects – math, English, science and history. That means during each year of high school, students should enroll in all four of these core subjects and, in addition, take at least two years of a foreign language.  

“Competitive universities want to see that students choose to challenge themselves by taking the hardest courses their high school offers,” Larkin said. “They would like to see them do well in these difficult courses (Advanced Placement, for example), but a ‘B’ in an AP course is usually preferable to an ‘A in a standard course.” 



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