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The 7 Surprises of Junior Year

Your third year of college is a lot different than your first two, so you should be on the lookout for these changes.

Junior Year in Review

Your third year of college is a lot different than your first two, so you should be on the lookout for these changes.

By Nicole Fryer University of Pittsburgh

Finals are just about finished, so it’s just about time to say goodbye to school for the next few months.

After one hell of a rollercoaster ride—from thinking I was failing school and passing up the opportunity to travel abroad, to graduating this year with a decent GPA—here are a few things from my junior year that ended up taking me by surprise. If you’re headed into your third year of college, be on the lookout for these seven things.

1. Grades Start to Matter

Remember when you started high school and suddenly you began giving a shit about your grades so you could get into a good college? Same thing here.

The 7 Surprises of Junior Year
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If you’re thinking about grad school, you’re going to want to study your ass off for the GREs, because your overall GPA is going to help determine which schools will accept or reject you. Even if you’re not planning on grad school right away, you never know if or when you might need the advanced degree, so don’t slack off now and regret it later.

2. Time Management Is No Longer Optional

Something I couldn’t seem to grasp this year was that my course load and schoolwork were going to be harder than my first two years. Before junior year, I could come home and get my work done before going out with friends and I never had to worry about it. This year, I had more, harder work, and I was unable to do it all before going to my job, which meant that my GPA suffered.

By the middle of the school year, I figured out that I was failing most of my classes and that I needed to do something to turn my grades around. I ended up quitting one of my jobs, aced my finals and passed those classes, but that mid-semester realization was a real wake-up call. By junior year, you’ll be taking more advanced classes, which will mean much more work. At the same time, you’ll have more extracurriculars on your plate, as well as “real world” responsibilities, like looking for jobs and taking care of yourself. After two years of gradually taking on more self-agency, your junior year is when you’ll finally start to feel the weight of your growing to-do list.

3. Procrastination Becomes a Necessity

Even though time management is important, it’s also important to de-stress. You’re not going to do well in school if you don’t have time to unwind, so, from time to time, sit back, put your feet up and watch some television. Whatever you do to procrastinate, do it—just make sure you give yourself enough time to get your work done.

The 7 Surprises of Junior Year
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College is a marathon, not a sprint, so you’ll never make it if you don’t learn how to (responsibly) take breaks. Giving yourself time to relax is part of learning how to manage your time well, so start practicing it now. Life never really gets less busy; you just get better at handling your obligations. But, if you don’t start learning how to work some Netflix into your study regiment, you’ll miss an opportunity to learn to balance your life.

4. Study Abroad, or Forever Hold Your Silence

Something I always wanted to do in college was study abroad, but at my school, you can’t do so in your senior year without special permission, so I knew my junior year was my last good shot. I applied for an amazing summer program to Scotland; the only issue was that I needed a 2.75 GPA, and since my grades were pretty shitty from my first semester, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get into the program. I applied anyway, and over winter break I found out I was accepted!

Unfortunately, I encountered a number of logistical curveballs all at once, and I ended up squandering my chance to study abroad. The trip would have interfered with my summer plans, and as I was stressing out over whether or to accept or not, the deadline to do so passed, so I ended up missing out on the offer.

Moral of the story? Your junior year is really the last time to embark on any substantial extracurricular activity. Ideally you will get involved with these semester-long type of engagements earlier in your college career, but if not, make sure you prioritize them so you’re able to do whatever it is before your senior year. I fell victim to simply having too many responsibilities to juggle, which is why it becomes increasingly harder to take on big projects the later you are in your college career. If you want to do something, sign up sooner rather than later.

5. Goodbye, Seniors

The problem with being a junior is that you’re either taking classes with moronic freshmen, or you’re taking classes with a bunch of awesome seniors that you want to befriend, but they’ll be graduating next year and you’ll never see them again—such high school level drama, right? Wrong.

I’ve befriended a lot of seniors this year (including my roommates), but now everyone is graduating and moving on with their lives. While I still have a few close friends that, like me, have a year till graduation, it sucks saying goodbye to part of your squad. So, as a junior, soak up as many memories as you can with your senior friends, because this could be the last time you see them, especially if you live in a college town that offers few opportunities for graduates. Plus, keep in mind, next year it’ll be you that’s graduating, so you should start making some undergrad friends now so you’ll have someone to mourn your leaving.

6. The 21+ Gap

By the time you’re a junior, whether you’ve been drinking illegally or not beforehand, just about all of your peers will be over the legal drinking age, which means a fundamental shift in what your free time looks like.

The 7 Surprises of Junior Year
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Though it of course depends on your friends and personal convictions, the majority of students begin exercising their legal right to drink in their junior year, which means that coffee dates turn into grabbing beers, sporting events turn into tailgates, parties turn into really crazy parties, and your wallet starts thinning more quickly than you’d ever imagined it could.

In short, your entire social network shifts toward alcohol-related activities, and it can be exciting time, though certainly one with its own challenges. Suddenly you start dealing with the financial and nutritional fallout of consistent drinking, and before you know it, you’ll wish that you never turned 21 at all. Just kidding.

7. Summer Is for Workers

If returning home for the summer to twiddle your thumbs in your parents’ living room has lost its appeal, stay close to campus if you’re able to. By the time you’re a junior, you should start considering internships and career-related jobs, and getting one can be the perfect reason to stay away from home for the summer. Plus, you’ll gain experience you need and maybe some extra spending money.

The 7 Surprises of Junior Year
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If an internship seems like a bad fit, consider taking some summer classes. Though they get a bad rap, summer classes can be a lot of fun, as spending several days a week with the same group of people quickly leads to a special kind of camaraderie. Plus, by taking classes between spring and fall, you’re giving yourself some breathing room for the semesters that count, which can help you in a big way. So whether you land a job or sign up for some classes, by junior year you should consider staying near campus.

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