How I stay creative and productive during junior year of high school
Junior year. Commonly dreaded by high school students as the worst out of all four years, eleventh grade is chock full of stress. SATs, ACTs, internships, jobs, scholarships, college visits, and more. Junior year is THE year where you need to know what you're going to do because essentially, everything depends on this year. That's what I've been told by my friends, classmates, teachers, family members, et cetera.
To be quite honest, I'm not entirely on top of all of it. Even taking the time to write this blog post was hard to do. I am grateful, though, that I got a few things out of the way. Firstly, I took the ACT in September of 2019, and I am taking it again this February (only a few weeks from now, good grief!) If there is one piece of advice I could give to underclassmen, even though I'm not fully done with junior year yet, it is to start early. Please do not wait until the second semester of your junior year to take your first SAT/ACT! Start early so you can get it done early and off your plate. I'm lucky to have taken the ACT already, so I feel relieved to already have a score under my belt, but don't wait. Just don't.
Secondly, college. I have a running list of colleges that I've been adding to and changing since the middle of sophomore year, and I've already visited a few of them! I'm planning on doing a few more college visits this spring, but I'm not too stressed about it. In terms of any sort of summer programs, jobs, or internships, I have more to say on that. This has been one of the most time-consuming, stressful aspects of my year. I am currently working on applications for a few journalism summer programs, which requires a lot of time and materials (mainly my writing!). Regardless of what major or career field you want to go into, if you're applying for any kind of summer program, it's going to be a lot of work. There's your resume, recommendation letters, writing/work samples, test scores, grades, transcript, essay... it's like a mini college application itself! This is another thing that I am juggling right now, along with my schoolwork and journalism-related work. All I have to say about this is, keep working. Your hard work will most definitely pay off in some way.
Adding on to that, junior year is the year where you should challenge your strengths, too. This year, I have entered some writing contests and had my work on the Tide nominated for Best of SNO awards (SNO, the site that the Tide uses to publish content, has a website that publishes the best articles by student journalists where individual student news sites can nominate them). Two of my articles, both arts reviews, have been published on Best of SNO, and I'm still working on more. Any form of recognition, whether it be a contest, a scholarship, or just a nomination for a program/award is a great way to put yourself and your skills out there for people to see, and junior year is a great year to do it!
Aside from extracurriculars and individual passions, schoolwork takes up a big chunk of my time. Junior year is frequently the year where high school students take the most challenging courses. Right now, I am in one IB (International Baccalaureate) and one AP (Advanced Placement) class, along with numerous other challenging honors and subject courses. There are challenges to the classes I've taken - I struggle in math and science - but my favorite part about this year's classes has to be the English classes I'm taking. I am currently in three; IB Language and Literature, Advanced Journalism, and Creative Writing, and I absolutely love all three. I am so happy that my school offers a certain amount of freedom when it comes to choosing courses after basic requirements are filled. If you have an opportunity to take electives in subjects you really love, do it! I also already planned out my courses for senior year, which I am even more psyched for. I have so many open spaces to take some really interesting and relevant courses.
Another thing that is constantly on the front burner for me is my work on the school newspaper. Something I have noticed about my work as a student journalist is that it progressively increases - both in quantity and quality - as I become more experienced. Yes, that means my writing is improving, but I am also challenging myself more and more this year. I've even had periods of time where I am juggling story assignments for more than three articles a week, even up to four or five, and/or podcast episodes that I have to work on. That is a lot, especially on top of schoolwork. I wouldn't change it at all, though. Throughout my years in my school newspaper, I have learned how much is too much for me or when I'm not pushing myself enough. I wouldn't take on so much work if I didn't feel passionate and determined to succeed! Although the student journalist aspect of high school can get stressful, it's my absolute favorite thing. When people ask me, "How do you know what you want to do at such a young age?", I tell them this. Though lots of people are shocked by my large time commitment and passion - I often get people saying, "It's just a school newspaper, no one cares that much. Why do you put so much work into it?" - I literally could not imagine my life without it. Having something to do makes me a more determined, better person and writer. I also have such a strong love for the Tide and the community, my Advanced Journalism class feels like a second home to me. I want to educate those around me about my school community. I feel so happy when someone tells me they learned something new from a Tide article, even if it isn't one of mine. My work as a student journalist is tiring, yes, but 100% worth it. I am constantly working towards something, and that makes me happy.