who has it worse: seniors or juniors?

Bramley Legg '23

Rising juniors have all heard the rumors that eleventh grade is the most difficult year in high school. Upperclassmen throughout the years make sure to pass on warnings to the 

underclassmen, adding to the tale that junior year is the hardest. While junior year is the deciding factor for colleges- is the course load harder, or is it just the stress accompanying the preparation for college?


Junior year is said to be the hardest because of AP courses, teachers becoming more serious in order to prepare their students for college, and the intense college counselor meetings. Furthermore, standardized testing such as the ACT and SAT becomes a new weekend hobby; and with testing tutors, practice workbook homework, Saturdays spent sitting in stuffy classrooms taking long tests. While all of this additional stress is suggestive of junior year being the hardest, I wanted to see if the current juniors and seniors at SSSAS agree with this theory, or if it is only a myth. 


I sent out a survey to current students at SSSAS asking: which year is harder: junior or senior year? Why did you choose your answer? While 58% or 14 of the 24 students surveyed answered that junior year is indeed more difficult than senior year, this data cannot be considered accurate as many of the responses came from juniors themselves, who have not yet had the senior year experience. The most telling responses, those from the seniors who have experienced both grades, believe that their senior year is actually more difficult than eleventh grade. Out of 15 seniors, 10 recorded that their senior year is harder, while only 5 picked their junior year. The “Why?” question helped answer the debate of does the difficulty have to do with academics or just stress in general? For those who picked that the junior year was more difficult, there were many commonalities between responses no matter their current grade level. Those students agreed that the pressure of junior year grades in association with college acceptance as well as harder course work makes it the most difficult year to navigate. While two-thirds of the senior class believe that their grade is hardest, they had a similar rationale to those who chose junior year. Although many believe that the stress of college applications makes the year more stressful, they also noted that the proximity to the end of high school brings an emotional response with a combined feeling of anticipation for what lies ahead. Multiple students noted that after acceptance letters were in, they wanted to be done; and began to experience a lack of motivation required to pass their classes for the remainder of the year. A select few that chose senior year as more difficult, also explained that the course work of junior year was brutal, but the emotional toll of picking a college as well as “senioritis”( the idea of decreased motivation and performance of seniors nearing the end of their academic careers), makes their final year drag on. 


In order to gain a different perspective, I gave a list of questions geared towards a college counselors perspective, Ms. Weith, one our college counselours, to get her opinion on the issue. Along with understanding the curriculum and expectations that juniors and seniors have, she understands the emotional toll that both years take on students as she is a sounding board to those who need her guidance. Her response was enlightening and impartial, giving me a better understanding of the stressors students face at the end of their high school career. While Ms. Weith noted the advanced coursework in junior year, she mentioned that seniors also have advanced classes, sometimes even more difficult than the previous year. She explained that along with more difficult classes, juniors have additional stress as their grades are of the utmost importance. Junior year grades are the final full-year grades that colleges see on applications and are therefore extremely important in the application process. While she believes that grades create an abundance of stress, she also noted that preparing for and taking standardized tests as well as taking on leadership roles on top of academics make time management arduous. The added responsibilities makes the transition from sophomore to junior year quite shocking, although junior to senior year is manageable. Ms. Weith believes that senior year has just as much stress, as the college application process is demanding, and while there is no longer a full year of grades to worry about, the first semester of senior year is paramount. She related the college application process to having an additional course load in school, while also dealing with the choice of what college to attend; what some may believe is the most challenging part of the process. 


After closely examining the results, I believe that both juniors and seniors have their work cut out for them. While junior year may bring more educational challenges and pressure to earn solid grades, seniors experience more emotional stress with the college application process. The results of my survey are subjective as every person has personal battles that might affect their decision, though the free response question gave insight into many of the trials and tribulations associated with both years. Ms. Weith gave invaluable information, along with strategies for juniors and seniors alike to deal with the additional stress with college preparation. She believes that students should develop a system for time management in order to deal with the extra responsibilities and advanced coursework, stay in constant communication with teachers and counselors, and leave college talk in the college office as others opinions may increase the stress and emotional toll. It is safe to say that junior and senior year are the most difficult grades in high school and the race to college is the primary hardship. I look forward to next year when I can reflect back on this piece and see if my mindset matches the responses I received from this year’s senior class. Good luck seniors, less than two months left before your high school career comes to an official end; you’ve got this!