I hugged you goodbye as you got into your car and drove to school for your first day of Junior Year. How did this even happen? You look so old, so wise, so much older and wiser than you are…You are self-assured, prepared, and ready to move forward in this fast-speeding world you live in. You’re racing down a road full of sharp corners that take you farther and farther into your future. And yet, you’re only 16.
Freshman year, you were finding your footing- nervous and unsure, just trying to navigate the new halls and this new identity. Sophomore year, you were excited and ready to embrace all the fun with the friends you had so carefully procured while trying to keep up with your classes.
Now you are embarking on a year full of an intense curriculum while you begin to narrow down your college choices. You will be studying for ACTs and SATs while researching locations all over the map that entice you as you dream about where you’d like to live in just a few short years.
You’ll start to worry about the colleges you’d love to attend if only you could raise your GPA higher and do better on those SAT/ACTs. You’ll still hold down a job and volunteer regularly while trying to keep up with your ridiculously difficult coursework. This is the year when you’ll be forced to look at the reality of what will come, and do something about it.
Junior Year is Different
Junior year is so very different. Most years feel as if we are rounding the bend of life, driving toward the next pit stop full of new opportunities and challenges. But this year feels more like a sharp sudden turn that speeds its way into the future while leaving your childhood behind. The tire tracks are fading way too fast behind those wheels, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s not how you’re supposed to live at the age of sixteen.
I know what happens from here. I’ve seen it unfold with friends whose kids are getting settled in their dorm rooms now. I know that you’ll be applying to colleges and buying dorm décor in the blink of your mama’s tearful eye. I’m not ready for that just yet. And neither are you. You’re still only 16.
These days are so different than years ago. Now more than ever, there is pressure to grow up fast and move ahead faster. Junior year is the epitome of that. If you’re not looking into colleges and studying for the ACT/SAT tests, you will fall behind the masses. If you’re not getting a 4.0 GPA, taking AP classes and earning college credits, then your chances of admission to an elite colleges wanes.
If you’re not ahead of the game, then you’ll lose the opportunity to play while you sit on the sidelines and watch the other smarter, more prepared players play. This is the life of a Junior now. Push and pull faster and faster forward, or you’ll never make the cut.
What I Want My Daughter to Know About Junior Year
But I want you to understand something; This is not how things should go.
This is not a race nor is it a competition. It is your life and you are still a child who deserves to be one. You can dream of future plans and explore ideas, but don’t let what’s going on around you get in the way of simply being you right now where you are.
You can prepare for college and take those classes, but don’t allow the weight of your grades, your GPA, or SAT/ACT scores consume you. You can study and work hard; you can give it your all and you can think about your future and explore all the different possibilities for what may come-but have fun too. Because this is high school. These are the years you are supposed to be a kid.
These are the years for growing and changing. These are the years to relish in all the things teens are supposed to relish in. These are the years for you to sleep in when you can, go out when you can, eat junk food and watch “Friends” on loop while scrolling through social media too. This is the time for you to be a teen who enjoys the simple things in life. This is the year to go out for coffee, cheer at fun football games and meander through the mall.
Don’t miss these moments.
Make last-minute plans to meet your friends for pizza or at the donut shop at 1:30am for fresh sugary goodness! Walk around uptown and take those cute selfies with your new outfits and perfectly styled hair. Spend your time fundraising for that mission trip you’ve been dying to go on and play board games with your brother while you’re still around to banter with him.
Experiment with new makeup and go thrifting for vintage fashion ideas on a dime. Save your money for college, but spend a little on stupid stuff too. This is what kids are supposed to do.
Please, just don’t forget to have fun, honey.
Don’t spend too much of your energy worrying about what you should be doing two years from now, because two years from now is impossible to plan perfectly. Don’t worry about what your friends are scoring on their ACT/SAT tests or about who is already taking classes at the community college. Don’t obsess over college admission standards, scholarship availability, and financial loans.
Don’t feel that pressure from the academic world that says you must be five steps forward when your feet are just fine where they’re planted right here, right now. The future will come faster than we can fathom. You don’t have to be in such a hurry to get there. You will be ready when you’re ready, and no sooner than that.
You’re not supposed to be ready now.
You’re not supposed to know everything or have a plan. Don’t force yourself to be any older than you are or any smarter than you should be. You only need to be sixteen. And sixteen isn’t 18 or 19 or 20, or even 21 now is it?
So have fun this year. Don’t waste it on worrying.
Don’t let this year be about stressing out over your GPA or SATs. Don’t let this year be full of college things, because you are in high school, honey. Be a kid, because you’re growing up way too fast and that’s just not right. Your future will be there waiting for you when you are good and ready. So, although I want you to try hard and do well, my best advice for you is this:
Don’t miss these moments… they’ll be gone before you know it.
ENJOY your Junior Year. You’re allowed to still be a kid.
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