You may have heard people refer to junior year of high school as “the one that really matters for college.” While junior year isn’t the only set of grades that matters, it does carry significant importance since it’s the final year that’s completed prior to submitting college applications.

There are also many other ways junior year can affect your future. During this year, you may take more challenging courses (such as AP or Honors classes), step into leadership roles in clubs or activities, and prepare for the SAT or ACT.

Most importantly, this is when you establish the study habits and time management skills that you will carry with you into college and future careers. It is important to make sure that the habits forming now are productive, efficient, and tailored to you. However, while each student may have a different learning style, there are study skills that are essential to every successful student.

Here are our top three study skills for juniors:

1. Plan Ahead by Thinking Backwards.

This may sound contradictory, but hear us out: junior year involves many landmarks, including the SAT or ACT, AP exams, and final exams for school courses. It is crucial to consider not only the timing of these exams, but also the preparation involved.

While the spring of junior year may sound like an appealing time to take the SAT or ACT, this may coincide with studying for AP exams as well as final projects or exams for classes. Distancing a standardized test from other exams and projects ensures that you’ll be able to dedicate time to studying for each, and—importantly—you’ll have time to recover in between tests to avoid burnout. Therefore, it is important to look ahead and determine the dates of immovable exams or assignments, then count backwards to establish the right amount of preparation time. If this sounds tricky, check out our article on establishing a test-prep timeline.

If you’re able to dedicate time to preparing for a single exam during a less-intensive period of the school year, you will likely perform much better. While it may seem strange to think ahead this far, this planning will help significantly when test season approaches.

2. Use the Weekend.

Although some students may have already accepted this, for many high school students, junior year is the first time that doing homework or studying on the weekends will be essential in order to stay on track. It’s difficult to give up “freedom,” but a few weekend hours spent taking a practice test or finishing an English essay for class can be crucial: this sacrifice helps make it possible to keep up with your commitments while adequately preparing for the major assessments ahead. Establishing this habit now may ease your transition into college, when it will be necessary to study and/or work on the weekends.

3. Prioritize.

Between classes and preparing for standardized exams, the school year may already seem very full, but junior year is also the perfect time to get more involved in activities and/or take on leadership roles. We highly recommend pursuing leadership roles or major projects in a few extracurriculars rather than having minor roles in many activities. Being selective with your time and engaging in activities that are truly important to you will facilitate a balance between schoolwork and other commitments. Demonstrating leadership and pursuing interests are essential for both the college application process and your overall future—an extracurricular activity can turn into a college major, or even a career.

Junior year is a transition time that may involve many adjustments in routines and planning. Working to form good time-management habits and develop study skills now will be immensely helpful in the year ahead and beyond.

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