What Your High School Junior Knows

by | Aug 29, 2023 | Just Doing Life, Parenting, Self Care, Teenagers | 2 comments

Dear Parents of High School Juniors,

As someone who has the privilege of working with high school students every day, hear me out on this one. Sometimes things are so obvious that we fail to take notice.

Please, please, please, stop telling your precious child that their junior year is THE most important year. Stop reminding them over and over that if they want to go to a “good” college, they HAVE to grind and work themselves to the bone. Don’t be the reason your teenager feels PUSHED to do more, be more and achieve more during this coming up year.

They know.

It’s true. They know.

They are well aware of what’s on the line and they don’t need the people who are supposed to be supportive and loving to also be hammering them about performance and achievement. Constantly reminding them how imperative it is that they kill it during junior year only drops more weight on their already heavy shoulders. It’s too much.

They know.

Academic pressure on young adults has reached intense levels. The stress of getting into the “right college” takes an enormous toll on young adult mental health. I see it in my office all the time. Bright, sweet, driven, hard working kids who are crumbling over the pressure to try and make their junior year the best year ever because that’s what all the adults around them are telling them.

They know.

Want to know a secret: Academic pressure does not always lead to better grades and improved test scores. Excessive levels of academic stress can result in depression, anxiety, nervousness, and stress-related disorders can adversely affect academic results. While you think you are motivating them, you actually might be heaping on the stress. Your “reminders” might not be as helpful as you think they are.

They know.

When young adults feel they must prioritize academic achievement over everything else—including physical health, friends and family, exploring hobbies, creative expression, downtime to recharge—they pay a high mental health toll. Not to mention trying to do all the college application extras they think they must to do to make themselves stand out. The stress of it all is overwhelming. Students are increasingly over-scheduled, academically burdened, and socially overwhelmed. One student put it to me like this: “I’m emotionally beat down.”

They know.

Lay off of adding any more pressure than they already feel. Home should be a safe haven, not a stressful place. Remind them that a good fit for college matters more than a “good” college. Encourage them to make time for things besides grinding their academics: family time, exercise, exploring outside, learning a new hobby, social time. They need time for play, time to laugh and time to rest. Make sure they get enough sleep. Put your ego aside and don’t get swept up in the prestige-driven quest to say your child is going to a specific college. Let this be their journey, not yours.

I get it- you want your kid to do well junior year so they have options. But they know this without you telling them. They hear it from teachers, coaches, college coaches, TikTok, their friends. It’s all around them.

They know.

At the end of the day, it’s much better to have a well-adjusted teen than a prestigious college admission. It’s more important to have a healthy and happy teenager than a burnt out teenager who struggles to find any joy in their life. It is better to have a positive relationship with your teenager than one where they feel worried about disappointing you if they don’t achieve all you expect them to. It’s better that they know you love them, regardless of their successes or their failures.

Yes, junior year is an important year: it’s a year to do their best, learn something new, challenge themselves (but don’t overwhelm themselves), work on their social skills, make mistakes and grow as a person. It’s a year to make memories, become more independent, find out who they are, and find out what excites them.

Make sure THEY KNOW the most important thing is that you love them, you are proud of them and that everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

Their junior year should be a voyage for discovery, and your job is to be a supportive and encouraging passenger on their journey.



  1. Bill

    Really great advice, thank you.

  2. Katie Whitlow

    I wholeheartedly agree. Don’t pressure your teenager. The most important thing is that the child figures out their path and not the school they go too.

    Sometimes they will make a mistake, support them, and they can figure it out.

    I love Kelly, she has so many words of wisdom.


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