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Take a deep breath: junior year has arrived. The tales told about this formative year are legendary, from advanced courses and standardized tests that keep you up studying all hours of the night to many of life’s milestones that arrive outside of the classroom, all of which mark the beginning of adulthood.

We know that you’ll be moving through a lot this year. You’ll have major ups and downs that are distinct from your other years of secondary education and there may be times that you need to lean on your friends and family in bigger ways. But remember: everyone is rooting for you. Your community is ready to support you, whether you look to a coach, school counselor, or teacher for advice, or the connections with your parents and friends. And as you begin this journey, we want to offer a few ways that you can start your time as a junior with energy and focus:

  1. Think about post-grad life now. While graduation may still feel like eons away, your future self will thank you. By imagining your life after high school, you give yourself time to establish what it is that is most important to you. Is it continued education? If you are on a university or community college track, set up some time in the next few months to speak with your school’s college counselor and determine what courses, grades, and exams are required for admittance.

    Visit college fairs and some local universities to see how the environment feels to you, or go on a virtual tour with YouVisit or CampusTours. Also, start investigating scholarship options here in the US through the Federal Student Aid Office or FastWeb. Affording the right college for you may require loans or scholarships, which will mean additional applications and forms.

    If you’re not planning to head to university after graduation, lay the groundwork for what feels right instead. Volunteering domestically can be an incredible way to transition from high school. Or perhaps farming abroad is a better fit. If you plan to work after graduation, start finalizing your resume and putting feelers out within your network of friends and family who may be able to connect you with jobs best-suited for your skills.

  2. Double down on academics. As mentioned above, junior year can be an academic doozy. But, if you stay organized, stay focused, and stay positive, there is truly nothing that you can’t handle. Look up the schedule for required standardized tests and plan backward: count back several weeks or months from the exam itself to register for a prep course, a practice exam, or simply create a study schedule. Preparing early for the SAT gives you the best chance of arriving to test day with confidence.

    Schoolwork, additionally, will ramp up this year, with advanced courses and long-term projects. Junior year can trip people up, especially since this challenging time feels so close to the finish line. Don’t lose sight of your long-term goals and ask others in your life to help as you manage a menagerie of tasks.

  3. Stay Present and Stay Healthy. It will be essential for you this year to stay healthy, both emotionally and physically, as you tackle your to-do list. Stay focused and make goals for yourself so you can maintain a clear head during junior year. Even with a busy work and study schedule, get sleep and stay hydrated, avoiding the pitfalls of germs that can strike when you’re already feeling vulnerable.

    Overwhelmed with work? Again, ask for help from anyone in your life or take a weekend to unwind, unplug, and reset. Even though you are striving to do your best this year, remember: your wellbeing is far more important than a test grade or application.

We hope that you can start school with your head held high and a pep in your step. Whatever woes and whims wind their way into your life this year, know that you are capable and ready.