So it's the beginning of your junior spring semester. You're back in school after a busy holiday break. You've probably been feeling the winter slump. Maybe you've seen your senior friends pulling their hair out with college application stress and you're dreading when it starts for you in earnest. Maybe you're just happy that life is settling into a routine again after the holidays. Any way you slice it, you might be planning to try to coast for awhile. You've got so much test prep to do, too! Can't you just put your academics on auto-pilot for the semester?
In fact, this semester is THE most important one of your ENTIRE high school career! So as you're settling into it, I just wanted to pass along this little motivational kick in the pants, so you understand exactly why this semester is such an important one.
So while you’re weary and tired of test prep, here’s why you need to not just “keep up” your grades, but make them the very best you possibly can.
Junior Spring is the last full semester of the story of your academic life so far!
When you apply Early Decision to schools in November of next year, you won’t have a full semester of grades to report on your transcript yet. Even Regular Decision applications might not have a completed fall semester—either because your grades might not be in yet, or because you’re one of the unlucky students who don’t have first semester finals until January (eek!).
So this semester you’re embarking on RIGHT NOW will likely be the last semester the admissions counselor at your dream school will see. And as you know from every story, fiction or non-fiction, the ending determines whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy.
Did you have less-than-stellar grades freshman year? The best way to show that was merely a fluke (“I hadn’t adjusted to high school life yet”) is to show that sophomore grades were better than freshman grades, and—wait for it—junior grades were even better than sophomore grades! If that's how your transcript looks, the story you're telling is one of improvement. Colleges see that story, and they forget all about a few less-than-stellar grades—instead, they get excited to see what you're going to do next. What new achievements you're reaching for. Where your drive to succeed will take you.
What about the same scenario with a different junior year spring ending? Freshman year crappy grades, then a spike of improvement during sophomore year, and junior fall OK too, but junior spring meh? We just created a downward arc that peaked somewhere during sophomore year. Would we expect this student to have amazing grades senior year? Probably not. Do we expect this student to then continue to stretch themselves academically in college? Likely not. Would this be a good candidate for our incoming class? (What do you think?)
I can hear it now, though (I've been at this an awfully long time, you see). You're all, “Wait, Kristina! I didn’t have crappy grades freshman year! Mine were actually wonderful! (Or at least they were...fine!) Why do I have to break my back junior spring to get amazing grades when I have the hardest classes I’ve ever had, have AP/Regents/IB tests, AND have to take the ACT/SAT?”
I’m glad you asked! Even if you did remarkably well freshman year, let’s look at our two endings and see what stories they tell about your academic career:
1) You did only OK junior spring (or even badly).
This is a downward trend, my friend! Doing great freshman year, OK (or even great) sophomore year and the fall of junior year, and then “meh” junior year spring? Looks like your glory days were behind you, and you’ll likely keep not focusing on your academics senior year and in college. Or maybe it just looks like you let your grades slip when you're stressed out (you know what's stressful? College). Either way? Doesn’t bode well.
2) You were equally amazing junior spring.
Even if you stayed the same every single semester, but your “same” is really “amazing,” guess what? That just means YOU are probably a consistently amazing student, and any college would love to have you.
Does that make sense? In ANY scenario, the only way that truly packages you as a fantastic prospect is to have the most amazing (or just equally amazing) semester grade-wise yet!
So I hope this charges you up for the challenges of junior spring. I know they're big ones, and I have every sympathy for their challenges! If you need a hand with anything, check out my resources for self-care and motivation, or reach out to me here—helping my students cope with the pressures of the college process is kind of my bag, after all. And good luck!