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Junior year in high school is considered the most difficult year for a variety of reasons. Here are reasons why and ways to help your 11th grader not only survive their junior year, but also feel accomplished.
1. Coursework. Junior year curriculum is difficult. American Literature, American History, Chemistry, and Algebra II are the core courses most 11th graders take. Many juniors find themselves overwhelmed by the difficulty of the courses and the work load. Many juniors, especially honors students, have coasted through freshmen and sophomore year without studying or even completing homework. Junior year rolls around and they do not understand how or want to study.
Solution: Help your student or child get organized! Planners are amazing if the student is taught how to use them correctly. Just because they are sixteen does not mean they will not need to be checked up on. Show them how to organize their binders and use dividers. So many kids shove everything in the front pocket of their binders, math, chemistry, and English all stuck together, wrinkled and torn, and more often “lost.” Organization is part of being an adult. Teach them well.
2. Balance. Along with coursework, juniors have difficulty balancing their lives. A drivers’ license opens a whole new world of freedom. Many begin to date, work, and meet friends. School takes a back seat, and before you realize it grades begin to slip and chores are neglected. Entering adulthood is full of trial and error, and learning to put work before play is a hard lesson to learn.
Solution: We like to think our students are responsible enough for their own lives, but as soon as grades begin to slip we need to get them back in line. Teachers call home and make the parents aware of the situation. Parents, if you notice grades slipping call your student’s teachers and discuss how to help. Most importantly, both the parent and teacher, separately or together, need to speak with the student. I have created individualized schedules showing how to balance work and play for students. Many times it isn’t because they don’t want to, it is because they do not know how. They are still kids. You cannot let them loose assuming they know that they have to study for the chemistry test if they want to keep up their gpa. Check up on them.
3. Graduation. Juniors begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Several things could and will happen because of this. Some juniors become really focused and driven and others, well, contact the dreaded senioritis their junior year. With only two years left, students must pass all their classes and make sure they are taking the right classes to receive financial help and get into their choice school.
Solution: Please make sure your child is taking the right diploma track. There is nothing more disappointing than finding your child only qualifies to attend a two-year college and not a four-year college. There are several different kinds of high school diplomas in most states. Sit down and talk with your child and decide what their plans are after graduation and make sure they are taking the proper classes to help them meet that goal. Go to parent teacher conferences and open house and find out. Your child may have information shoved in the front pocket of that binder and they are not telling you.
4. Standardized Testing. By junior year, students understand what standardized testing is and its importance. Most students will have more than one for their school, but this a new test that is added their junior year – the ACT or SAT. Colleges look at these scores and determine college readiness. Most of these test cost money and can be taken several times. They are timed and sometimes juniors have never been tested on a timed test. It is a rude awakening for them.
Solution: Timed tests are a must. Incorporate timed tests in your classroom and review them. Parents: examine the scores and if you do not understand them contact your child’s school and someone will help you. Find out what score your child needs for scholarship opportunities and what scores are needed for them to attend their school of choice. There are plenty of test prep books available, please practice with them at home.
5. Junior year is expensive. Letter jackets, class rings, vehicles, and prom cost hundreds of dollars, if not thousands. ACTs, SATs, and AP exams are not free. Your child will more than likely take the ACTs or SATs more than once and each exam costs. Junior year is just a taste of the cost because senior year is more expensive with senior pictures and graduation parties.
Solution: Sit down with your child and discuss your finances. Make them aware of what is doable and what is not. Teenagers are not always aware of how much things costs. They are growing up and will be on their own in the next couple of years. Take the time to discuss budgets. Not all of us are blessed with being able to give the world to our kids without looking at the bank account. Explain what you can give and tell them if they want more, they will have to come up with the rest without letting grades slip.
Junior year is full of exciting firsts. We want them to have fun, but not ruin their future in the process of it. Helping your students or child find a balance is very important, if they cannot learn it now under your guidance, they will struggle in college and life when they are completely on their own. High school students may look like young adults, but they are still kids and need your guidance. They will listen because they are scared even if they won’t admit it. Growing up is hard and even harder if no one helps you.