What I Wish I Knew as a Xavier Junior


The view outside Room 102

By Aidan Higgins, Editor-in-Chief

Junior year is widely considered the most challenging year of high school. Here are five tips to help you get through it.

1. Caffeine can be a superpower if used wisely

In my article “Why Your Coffee Habits May Be Giving You Depression” last year, I wrote that, because I seldom consume caffeine, I feel an intense burst of euphoria whenever I drink coffee.

Consuming caffeine has numerous beneficial effects, including temporary increases in energy, creativity, happiness, and ability to focus. If you are careful about how frequently you use the chemical, it can be a convenient tool for boosting test performance and writing quality. If you overuse it, however, its effects will weaken. Ideally, we wouldn’t need to rely on caffeine for mental stimulation, but our heavy workloads often require assistance.

2. Learn how to manage your time

My Junior year was accompanied by a steep increase in workload. The clubs I was involved in started to require more effort, my company (Keep Up News) began putting out more content, and my assignments switched from mostly single-day homeworks to long-term projects. After I fell behind on some problem sets in the first marking period, I was unable to recover easily and got trapped in a weekly cycle of catchup until the year ended.

I would recommend making getting ahead on your homework a priority. If you can sacrifice your extracurriculars for just one or two weekends and grind out work as hard as you can until you are in a comfortable position, I think it will pay off. Once you have no immediate due dates, you can focus on doing, say, 30/40 minutes of work per class per day, breaking up long assignments into small, spread-out bursts of effort. This way, your daily workload will max out at around 4.5 hours per day and you won’t have to repeatedly pull all-nighters.

3. Make studying more enjoyable

The current school model is often inefficient at measuring our mastery of material. It frequently emphasizes test applications over deep understandings of content, which is a bit of a perversion of the learning process. Though grinding for top marks is an unavoidable part of high school right now, there are small steps you can take, such as buying high-quality school products and changing your work location, that make this experience more enjoyable. Personally, I’ve found using a $10 pencil (the Uni Kuru Toga), studying at Wesleyan’s Science Library, and listening to lo-fi hip hop make the grind much more manageable. Experiment with different methods and figure out what works for you.

4. Work out

Exercising is a natural and easy way to raise self-confidence and serotonin levels. Many students cannot fit full workouts into their busy schedules, but most can make room for a 10-minute run. Even something as small as jogging a mile every day can make a noticeable difference in mental health.

5. Do less

In an article centered mainly on achieving academic success, it may feel odd to see “do less” as the final recommendation. This, however, is arguably my most important piece of advice.

One of my critical weaknesses, and one that is shared by many other students, is overambition. At several points last year, I sat down to write out all my goals, proceeded to apply my list to my life, and quickly burnt myself out. After I started to scale down my list, I began to accomplish more and gain more fulfillment from my academics and extracurriculars.

If you find yourself struggling to reach all your goals, you may be able to do more by doing less. Though it may seem counterproductive at first, suppressing overambition often leads to greater achievement and a deeper sense of satisfaction.


In closing…

Junior year was certainly the most academically challenging year of my high school career. At times, the demands of my workload made me feel powerless and unhappy. However, by learning to prioritize intellectual learning and work-life balance over material success, I ultimately found great fulfillment and gained valuable life skills. If you are a Junior or will someday be a Junior, I sincerely hope that you find these tips helpful and that you can successfully navigate the year’s intense demands.