CCA Pulse Magazine
Why Junior Year Sucks | Addie Picker
For ages, the life of a typical high school student has been glorified by the media. Movie, TV shows, and book characters are seen attending parties, hanging out with friends, always knowing exactly what to wear, and seeming to have “the perfect life.” However, the question of artistic accuracy is brought up when the high school life depicted in the media is compared to the life of real high school students today. For many, high school is not actually a time of no responsibilities, youth, and little stress. It is instead a 4 year period of stress, worry, and panic about what the future holds for the student, especially if that student is in the midst of their Junior year. In today’s world, Junior year of high school boasts its poor, and accurate, reputation of forcing several AP classes, SAT prep, AP exams, and worry about GPAs. For a high school Junior in 2022, it seems as if the only way to survive the year is to close your eyes and hope it will be summer when you open them.
Implemented in 1855, Collegeboard’s AP classes have taken the United States’ high school system by storm. Offering 38 unique college-level courses, Collegeboard gives high school students the opportunity to display their academic strength and collect college credits while still in high school. A seemingly good idea, AP classes actually prove to be a negative source in a student's life. As most high schools do not have a limit to the number of AP classes a student can take, both internal and external pressures trap many students into believing they must pile their schedule with rigorous AP classes: Many students face pressure to take AP classes by not only their parents and peers, but from themselves as well. Any given AP class can offer several hours of homework a night, therefore coupled with other classes, can pose quite a challenge to students. Many students are then faced with the decision to potentially sacrifice their social and extracurricular lives to take a more-than-humanly possible number of AP courses. In addition, receiving an A in an AP class gives students a boost in their weighted GPA, therefore helping them in their college admissions process. To make matters worse, in order to receive college credit for their class, students must pass a standardized exam, hosted by Collegeboard, at the end of the year. Therefore, a student can perform well in a class, receive a good grade, and still not receive college credit if they do not perform well on the Collegeboard standardized exam. Due to the large presence of rigorous AP classes, many high schoolers come home to hours of homework each night and little sleep rather than time for family, friends, and extracurricular activities.
Even previous to the implementation of AP classes, the SAT exam was created in 1926 to assess the academic standings of high school students in the US. Created by the same dreaded Collegeboard, the SAT exam has become a staple factor of a high school student’s success in the college admissions process. A standardized exam, the SAT is taken by almost every high schooler in the country, normally during the Junior or Senior year. An SAT score is required for almost every college application, therefore performing well on the test is a high priority for students. The PSAT (practice SAT exam) is required for all sophomores and juniors to take through their school, however, many students began prepping for the SAT far before. Similar to the pressure to take rigorous classes, high school students face pressure to begin prepping for the standardized exam far before necessary. Brainwashed by the idea that the SAT is the single most important factor in the college admissions game, students spend countless hours taking practice tests and researching the best ways to improve their scores on the exams. In addition, test preparation programs are offered, which many kids choose to use. This creates the problem of the class divide in the college admissions process, as most test prep programs are fairly costly. As a result of the pressures placed on high schoolers by the SAT, students, especially those experiencing their Junior year, face the challenge of balancing SAT prep with their already difficult school schedule. Rather than focusing on their own personal and academic growth through finding their passions, students are subject to cramming and “hacking” their way through tests to achieve the best score. Juniors in high school not only have to balance their personal lives as they near adulthood, but have to often handle many AP classes and preparation for the SAT. Such factors blend together to create endless stress, sleepless nights, and panic about the future.
Though from the outside, the high school appears to be a time of youth and positive growth in a kids’ life, it often is quite the opposite. High schoolers in the US today see themselves prioritizing their own mental health in order to make their college application the best they can be. The stress of college taints the high school experience of many, essentially ruining the time of “blissfulness” and “youth” for the students. As Junior year proves to be the most essential academic time for improving one’s college application, there is a high contrast between reality and the media for high schoolers. Though many view their high school time in a positive light, there will likely be a new generation of adults who look back in horror at the times they faced preparing for college. The picture-perfect high school life increasingly seems to exist only in the media, and no longer in reality.