Behind the 4.0: calculating the big junior year


Rhaya Truman

Emmanuelle Copeland studying for her upcoming AP spanish test.

Honors courses, community service hours, sports practices, creating time to hang out with friends and family, job responsibilities, club meetings, following a consistent sleep schedule, eating and drinking well, studying for exams and preparing for standardized testing — these are just a few of the things this year’s juniors of DGS have to worry about.

According to many studies, junior year is the most important year out of the high school career with regards to college admissions, success in jobs and beyond. With all of the control junior year seems to have on student’s futures – there are multiple elements that play a role in the end outcome of a mustang’s junior year.

Junior Jillian Paladino instructs that it is unavoidable to feel pressure during the year because of the amount of work and responsibility you are expected to take on as a new upperclassmen.

“The openness of my schedule and the ability to pick a majority of the classes I take put me in a spot where I thought that I had to take every AP and honors class offered. To add, this year I have taken many more leadership roles in the clubs in which I am involved. This takes a lot of extra time and effort that could easily be time spent sleeping or studying. This is all on top of trying to manage relationships with family, friends, teams and excelling in school. Which, as you could imagine, is not the easiest thing to do,” Paladino said.

Junior Joey Koenig presumes that another major stress factor of junior year is standardized testing and preparing for the future. As juniors, they are expected to learn how to prepare for an important test all colleges refer back to.

“This year is the actual SAT not the PSAT; this score actually counts and is very important to show for college applications and makes you look better. This year we also have to kind of cement what we plan to do as a career. It can be hard to know what we have interest in, especially since we have had very little exposure to all the different jobs out there,” Koenig says.

AP Government teacher Robyn Fardy understands and sympathizes with students over the stress that comes along with junior year.

“They [juniors] start to research colleges and figure out what their plans are. I know that they also have an advocacy project in English, and are often taking some honors or AP level classes for the first time, so it can be overwhelming. Add to that after-school clubs, sports and jobs, and no wonder they are stressed,” Fardy said.

AP Language teacher Nathaniel Haywood thinks it is important for teachers to provide time for stress induced students to get distracted from their problems in a healthy matter a few minutes every day in the classroom while still getting beneficial work done.

“Not being afraid to have that minute or two of down time or relaxation like talking to students as opposed to every second of the period has to be all about the business because I think that minute or two of down time or not curriculum time is vital for having the students feel comfortable in your room which then creates better work,” Haywood said.

Although, some teachers believe it is not their job to try and relieve any type of stress from the student but more guide them easier in the right direction while still challenging them.

“I don’t think it is the teacher’s job to make their students feel stress free. It isn’t a teacher’s job to make the material easy for the students, it is the teacher’s job to make the students better at doing hard things. As a teacher I am aware of stressful times and offer suggestions for how to deal with the pressure. If you experience no stress then you probably aren’t challenging yourself,” science teacher Brian Fudacz said.

In the grand scheme of things, even after all of the academics, Haywood believes that students of the future should focus more on the learning and absorbing attributes of the material rather than just wanting the letter grade higher.

“They have to find the right balance of caring about their grades and caring about their learning. Because a lot of the times, students get really caught up in the grade. Always asking ‘what do I have to do to get the grade’ and ‘I need to keep my B or I need to get an A etc. as opposed to ‘what am I taking away from this class.’ So that is the thing I wish more students would pay more attention to,” Haywood said.

Behind all of the numbers and calculating, Paladino believes that no matter what year you are in, high school is something to enjoy, no matter the letters on your transcript.

Take positive risks, make mistakes and learn from them, have fun with your friends, do things that make you happy,” Paladino said. “Be who you want to be, and stay true to yourself. You don’t get this time back so take it in, and enjoy every second you have.”

Fardy lives by the motto that everything no matter good or bad has a lesson to it, and she embeds that into her students so they can learn something from their mistakes rather than get down on themselves about it and give up.

“I live by the motto ‘things happen for a reason’ and I try to instill that motto into my students as well,” Fardy said. “Although some things will feel like the end of the world while you are experiencing them, life will go on and maybe a new door or opportunity will open up for them as a result. Life is all about perspective, and it’s important to keep that in mind as much as possible.”