The Stress of Junior Year: Standardized Testing

The Stress of Junior Year: Standardized Testing

Evan Hecht, Staff Writer

Junior year is infamous in high schools for a multitude of reasons. While the workload remains the same for most, what makes junior year so different is the start of the college process. Many people debate when they should start studying for standardized testing or looking at colleges; it even became a major debate at my family dinner table for a few months as we determined what I should do. I decided to talk to three students about their three very different approaches to the college process. Ava Florczak (19’) finished her testing back in the fall, taking the SAT and ACT; Allie Tilton (19’) will be taking the ACT for the first time on April 14th; and Jordan Becker (19’) has done little in his college process.

Where are you in the college process?

AF: I am currently researching colleges. I started visiting schools over the summer and have now seen about six. I’m spending my spring break in Boston and D.C. to visit more schools.  

AT: I’ve taken boot camps and practice tests for the ACT, but I haven’t actually taken a real test yet.

JB: I have drawn up a list of colleges I want and am going to visit. Once I know what the college I want wants out of a person, I will work towards that.

What standardized test are you taking/have taken?

AF: I took the SAT in the fall, once in October and again in November. My parents were happy with my scores but I wasn’t, so I decided to try the ACT. I took it [the ACT] in February and wound up doing better on it.

AT: I’m going to take the ACT in April.

JB: Multiple practice ACTs and SATs.

What type of school are you looking for?

AF: I don’t know what career I want to pursue, so I think a school that is flexible and has plenty of options for me to explore would be the best. I’m also looking for a small to medium-sized school with about 5,000 to 15,000 students. I also want something with a lot of spirit.

AT: I’m looking at medium to larger-sized universities on the East Coast that have good business programs.

JB: Honestly anything. I just want to see a college and hear positive things about it, and I think I’ll just know this is the college I want.

What schools are you looking at?

AF: My top choice right now is Lehigh University. I love how it has amazing alum connections, and from what I can tell, everyone seems friendly and inviting. I also really like William and Mary. I’ve also visited Lafayette, Villanova, Bucknell, and UD, but I’m not as interested in them. I plan on visiting Boston College, BU, Georgetown, Dartmouth, and GW in the future, as well as other schools.

AT: I’ve been looking at Fordham University, University of Delaware, Penn State, etc.

JB: Umass, Uconn, Quinnipiac and more. It’s really a broad search list.

How has the college process affected your junior year?

AF: I’ve been told by my siblings and peers that junior year counts the most, so try your hardest. College is always a topic of conversation and people are always discussing what others got on their ACTs, SATs, etc. It can be hard to balance work, after-school activities, and studying for standardized tests, but I think I’ve been pretty successful at managing everything so far.

AT: As the date for my ACT approaches, it has definitely put more stress on me along with the other work I have to balance throughout my junior year.

JB: It takes up my time. Knowing that every test and grade is what colleges will see helps motivate me…and stress me out.

Do you feel that the college process has made junior year harder or easier?

AF: Definitely harder. I think since there is so much emphasis put on excelling academically your junior year, I’ve put more pressure on.

AT: The college process has made my junior year a lot more hectic. I have to start thinking about what I want to do with my life after high school before I even graduate.

JB: The college process has definitely made junior year much harder.

Do you think that junior year is as hard as you expected it to be?

AF: People always say junior year is the worst, and they’re right. I didn’t believe them at first, but only a couple weeks into this year I had mountains of homework and tests to study for. I don’t think the content we learn this year is necessarily harder, it’s just more homework to do.

AT: I don’t think that junior year is hard in terms of workload; it’s just a lot more pressure than any other year.

JB: It is exactly as difficult as I thought it would be.

What do you think the biggest misconception about junior year is?

AF: That it’s all work and no fun. I still have time to hang out with my friends, even if that means doing homework with them. It’s all about time management.

AT: I think a big misconception about junior year is that everyone knows by now what exactly they want to do in college.

JB: The biggest misconception is standardized testing won’t take up all your time every day if you care about a good grade.

Have you felt more pressure from your peers about the college process or your parents?

AF: My peers, definitely. My parents have been so helpful and supportive this whole year. They know I’m responsible and am always on top of my work, so they don’t really worry about colleges with me.

AT: I think my peers have had a bigger impact on me with the college process. Some people have been studying since sophomore year. Especially in Tenafly, I think it’s almost expected to have Ivy League, or schools close to an Ivy, on your list, and that just isn’t the case for me. A lot of my friends are flipping out over what grades they need to get to apply to their dream schools and the stress is starting to rub off on me.

JB: Definitely peers have made it difficult. It’s embarrassing to not come to the standards of your friends’ scores, especially if they are intelligent.

Would you recommend following the path you took?

AF: 100%. I’m happy in all my classes and am doing well in all of them. However, I’ve definitely had to work hard and not slack off to maintain my grades.

AT: I think I could have prepared a little more for the ACT, but I think my more calm and relaxed approach at preparing for the tests is a good route to go. Learn how to take the test effectively, go over general information, and do your best. Whatever is meant to be is meant to be. I’m not going to stress myself out trying to get into a school I have no business being in.

JB: I would recommend knowing every course you need for some colleges you’re looking into by your sophomore year so you can prepare yourself for whatever you will, or may, need leading to college.