Everyone underestimates their junior year of college, which is exactly why it’s so dangerous.
By Quintara Hatten, University of South Carolina
Everyone is always so quick to say to me, “Wow, you’re a junior? You don’t have much longer left in school,” and I always smile and answer with a faint “Yes.”
But few people understand the ongoing stress that comes with being a third-year college student. You’re stuck in a position of still having time to do things, and planning the next five-to-six years of your life, which can lead to quite a bit of panic. As a result, some days, I can’t help but blurt out to my friends: “I need to get my life together” or “I don’t want to adult anymore!”
So, whether you’re feeling like me or just getting to that point, I find it helps to remind myself that the four years I’ve spent in college will be worth it. The sleepless nights will be worth it and the constant checking of Blackboard to see when assignments are due will be worth it.
One day, five years from now, all the frustrations will have passed, as you will have survived what I like to call “junioritis.” In the meantime though, while you struggle through the dreaded third year of school, here are four things to remember.
1. Breathe in, Breathe Out
Being under stress in college is normal; I’m pretty sure 90 percent of your friends are feeling the same way. But, be careful how much stress you are under. Unduly worrying can only decrease your ability to deal with the challenges in front of you, which is the very definition of counter-productive. So, to deal with stress, you have to work hard to control it.
To do, the solution is simple—breaks and breaths. Every time you feel like an assignment is insurmountable, take a break, go for a ten-minute walk and do some simple breathing exercises. For me, when I feel that an assignment is becoming overwhelming, I like to walk away from my computer, stretch and practice controlling my breathing to keep the blood flowing throughout my body.
I try to stray away from logging onto social media or watching television, because it can become distracting very quickly. What was initially suppose to be a two-hour assignment can quickly turn into a four-hour one.
2. Prioritize Your Time
As a full-time student, taking a load of five-to-six classes can be overwhelming. I personally didn’t experience how important it is to manage your time until I transferred to my four-year university.
At my technical college, I had the privilege of being able to take classes only Monday through Thursday, which I feel like I took for granted now; on Fridays, I had the opportunity to catch up on any assignments I missed during the following week.
Now, for the last three years, you would be hard-pressed to catch me without a planner in my bookbag. I find that having a planner is essential to remembering your assignments, as well as what will be due in two weeks compared to what will be due tomorrow.
But, with prioritizing comes with the other “p” word—procrastination. I don’t think I can explain how much of a habit procrastination has become in my life. I think everyone has days where they just want to kick back and catch up on Netflix.
To prioritize, which means scheduling your days so you do have time to watch Netflix, write down all the assignments you have due, then list them in order. Treat your homework like a doctor triaging patients. Deal with the immediately pressing issues first, then the moderately pressing ones and then begin chipping away at the distant ones.
By constantly reassessing how much work you have and when you need to start it, you will feel proactive, which will lessen your stress levels. Making the list will also help you visualize what you have on your plate on a weekly basis, which will make you much likelier to get everything done promptly.
3. Positive Vibes, Realistic Strive
To be successful in your college career, you must be realistic about who you are as an individual. In other words, assign to yourself only what you know you can accomplish.
Yes, your friend can take six classes, work a full-time job and complete extracurricular activities; that doesn’t mean you can too. The fact that they can balance more than you now doesn’t mean that you’re destined to be unsuccessful, but doing more than you’re able to, and then failing, might mean just that.
One issue I struggled with was not being realistic about whether I’d be able to learn the material in a difficult class. Instead, of going to tutoring (which is a free service), I would continuously read notes that quickly began to look like words floating off the page. Bad idea!
I had to learn how to discipline myself, which meant learning at what rates I can internalize various types of information.
4. The Pursuit of Happiness
College can turn you into a robot and put you into a box that you don’t fit in. Avoid that. Constantly ask yourself, “Do I want to get involved with any and everything in college? Or is it just because doing so will make my resume look nice?”
You have likely been asking yourself those questions since you were a freshman, but it’s during your junior year that you really begin to answer them. Six semesters in, you are beginning to know what really interests you. In many ways, that new self-knowledge is a positive. It means you can finally start following a path that will lead you where you want to go.
At the same time, nothing is more terrifying than personal revelation. If you have been asking yourself if you really love your major for three years, and can finally answer that no, you do not, then the temptation to freak out is a serious one. But, that’s the beauty of junioritis—the real world might seem bigger and closer than ever before, but you’re more equipped to handle it than ever before.