It’s common knowledge that junior year of high school is the most critical. After all, it is the last full academic year that students have to build their college applications and impress the schools they apply to.
If your junior year ends up paling in comparison with how you had imagined, trying to rebound from that may feel like a hopeless pursuit. However, it is possible. Here are four ways to bounce back from a disappointing junior year.
Get in the Right Head Space
Not finishing junior year like you had hoped can bring painful emotional consequences, such as stress and depression. These are normal reactions to adverse situations. However, until you have your mind in the right place, it will be difficult for you to accomplish much else.
Your first line of business should be to take care of your mental health. This process is not one-size-fits-all, but experts agree that doing exercise, spending time outdoors, sleeping well, pursuing hobbies and surrounding yourself with good people are behaviors that generally work well for everyone.
In cases of extreme emotional distress, consider speaking to a psychologist who can show you how to deal with your feelings in a healthy way and who can suggest effective next steps.
Determine the Causes of Your Poor Performance
Arguably, the most counterproductive reaction to disappointment is refusing to acknowledge your own blunders. J. Harold Smith, a famous evangelist, once wisely said, “More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”
To recover from a subpar junior year, you must first diagnose why your performance suffered. For this step, be brutally honest with yourself as you are alone with your thoughts. Maybe you’re not used to introspecting in this way, so it may be awkward initially. If that happens, try journaling in a notebook that only you will see.
One technique is to keep asking yourself the “why” questions until you arrive at an answer that makes sense. For example, the first question in the series may be, “Why didn’t I achieve my ACT target score?” The answer may be that you did not devote enough time to preparation. Then you would ask yourself, “Why did I not have enough time?” Eventually, you may realize that the core issue is not a lack of time but poor time management skills.
As a final tip, shoo away feelings of self-pity as soon as they enter your mind. It is action, not thoughts, that will make it possible for you to bounce back from disappointment. Whenever you find yourself feeling regretful about your junior year, occupy your time with something productive.
Address Your Mistakes
Once you have identified the root cause of your poor performance, create a plan of attack that directly addresses it. To that end, brainstorm a list of potential solutions and implement one or several that seem plausible.
If you know your test prep suffered because of poor time management skills, you could resolve to spend less time texting on your phone each day. A screen-time-limiting smartphone app could help you achieve this goal. Then, every day at 4 p.m., for example, you could set out to answer at least 10 ACT practice test questions.
Establishing a routine is one way to develop strong time management skills.
Make the Most of Summer
The summer always seems to fly by. However, you can use this time to set manageable short-term goals that can help compensate for your junior-year performance gap.
If your grades were your principal disappointment, commit to reviewing course material that you are likely to encounter again in your senior-year courses. Content review will prove especially useful in cumulative subjects like math and foreign language.
You could also use the summer to enhance your extracurricular profile. School clubs and teams do not usually meet in the summer months, so explore opportunities to contribute to your larger community — for instance, through volunteer work at your local library.
If you are unsure how to get started, branch out. In other words, try something totally different — sewing, fencing, Swahili — to impress your colleges of interest. Later, remember to let them know about your unique pursuits in an essay or short response on your application.
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4 Ways to Bounce Back From a Subpar Junior Year of High School originally appeared on usnews.com