Teenagers may be afraid for a good reason, given the reputation of the junior year of high school as being extremely hard. For students, it is a significant and busy year. 

But with the correct preparation and attitude, it doesn’t have to be a year that is excessively stressful. Junior year involves a lot of juggling for students. Teenagers may find it challenging to combine their extracurricular activities, heavy academic loads, and standardized testing.

A weak start to the academic year in freshman or sophomore year is typically nothing to worry about. Still, a decline in performance in the junior year might be problematic—particularly if a teenager is applying early decision or early action to colleges. 

Colleges look for upward trends in grades as well as proof that students are eager to challenge themselves academically and intellectually in their key disciplines.

Here are a few of the factors juniors in high school deal with that add to their stress levels.

Preparations for the College Selection Process

Juniors must start planning for the future and conducting college research as if their current obligations weren’t already enough to deal with. Junior year duties might cause students to become so busy that they sometimes don’t have time to thoroughly research institutions. 

Teenagers should have a list of six to ten colleges they are interested in by the conclusion of their junior year or the beginning of their senior year.

A Propensity to Extend Too Far

Planning ahead and being organized are essential to having a tolerable junior year. Although junior year is a busy one, it need not be overly stressful. 

Both students and their parents may save a ton of time and effort along the road by planning ahead and understanding that the college application process is a marathon and not a sprint.

Overextending is one of the top errors junior year teenagers make. You cannot perform all tasks flawlessly. 

Prioritize your top two or three extracurricular activities and your academics. Don’t add other clubs to your resume or forgo taking time to unwind.

The Need for Independence

Junior year is so busy for teenagers that parents naturally want to pitch in and assist them. However, it is ultimately up to the youngster to take the lead in the search, no matter how much parents may want to take charge of some areas of the college process.

Teenagers at this age desire to distance themselves from their parents more and may find it difficult to ask for help since they want to seem and feel independent. They could also worry about upsetting their parents by not maintaining satisfactory grades or failing to gain admission to a parent’s former school.

Even parents experience stress. Although they want to give their teenagers room to be independent, they don’t want them to fail, so they occasionally go too far. 

That can be challenging for parents to accept their child’s failure while acknowledging it is a necessary component of learning.

Advice for Parents

Juniors’ parents’ primary responsibility is to act as a support system. Parents should lay the groundwork for regular conversations about academic performance, extracurricular activities, and college applications, but they shouldn’t try to determine the topic.


Be motivating but also practical. Less attention should be paid to results and more to the effort. Remind teens to avoid taking on too much and to maintain good health by eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep. 

Encourage them to understand that they must give it their all without stressing or worrying about things they cannot change.

Sarah J. Person, LCSW-R, can help you understand and manage stress. She is a psychotherapist with over fifteen years of experience and training. 

Her practice is focused on providing psychotherapy to adults and teenagers in upstate New York, Brooklyn, and Long Island. Contact her office today to schedule an appointment.