March 12, 2017

A Junior Breakdown

Shifra Zuckerman ‘18

Every new junior grade is set up for an exciting, chaotic and full year. This becomes quite clear as you look at the calendar.
We turn 17, we get the freedom of having our license, we have our first prom experience, and we practically become seniors in February. As great as this sounds, the fun-filled junior year is actually the most crucial and grueling year of our high school journey.
If you didn’t realize it before, it suddenly hits you that everything comes down to junior year. This is when the ACT/SATs, college tours and homework all pile up at once. The stress is endless.
Everything we do this year is going to affect us in the future, but no pressure. How are we supposed to enjoy our final full year in school while completely overwhelmed by the future?
Junior year has surely captured not only a majority of our happiness, but crucial parts of our teenage life, as well.
One special part of our day that we look forward to the most has been taken away this year: sleep. It is completely irrational to expect us to get nine hours of sleep and stay healthy when there is a constant list of assignments to get done.
“I used to get nine hours of sleep a night and now I get around seven and a half,” junior Mikayla Spierer said. “One thing I’ve definitely realized this year is that I am just always going to be tired and it’s kind of a normal feeling now. I get home and work until the moment I go to sleep, so I get no time to unwind.
Another major challenge that has been noticed this year is the competitiveness occurring in our classrooms. Now that college is coming into the picture and GPA’s will eventually be sent out, it makes individuals strive to become one of the best students in their classes, if not the best.
What doesn’t make sense is how we are supposed to enjoy learning if the whole purpose is to get good grades. High school is a time to discover your passions and embrace education, but the stress caused by grades creates a noxious environment for learning.  
Junior Alex Moskowitz said that he finds that this year there is “less camaraderie in classrooms which makes it much more hostile.”
I don’t know if anyone else is sensing it, but I am definitely feeling the pressure of the need to become perfect for college application time. The need for more volunteering hours, joining more extracurriculars, while juggling the fact that I am still only 17 is a difficult concept.
The ideal resolution would be to cut all homework and exams and make every college test optional. That would be heavenly, although unrealistic. However, our high school years are passing us by because we have all become extremely caught up in the chaos of junior year.
The thought that scares me the most is that we are growing up so fast,” junior Jessie Ruchman said. “I feel like when we’re constantly stressed out with school, life passes us by even faster. I just want it all to slow down.”
We are approaching the end of our high school careers and, sadly, our youth. Twenty years from now, I will look back at these waning years and feel like the blur of my daily life will be all I can remember. I fear the happiest and most tender moments may vanish behind memories of late nights studying and stressing over the slightest shift in a grade.
I want to remember my life not as something that flew by, but rather as something that was memorable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, it is clear that junior year is not going to be one of those years that will be remembered as a fantastic year.
Hopefully we will become less stressed as the year progresses, once entrance exams get out of the way, but for right now, I suggest joining me in signing up for a bunch of meditation classes.

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