Junioritis: it IS real!

The Untold Burn-out High School Juniors Face.

Nicholas Yoo, Editor-in-Chief

For juniors, the future is a monstrous figure looming just over the horizon. Currently, many are facing the most challenging year of their high school careers. Transitioning into eleventh grade brings more than just heavier workloads and more demanding classes. Often, it is a year filled to the brim with high-level classes and extracurriculars.

The junior year of high school is when students go “all in” to buff up their resumes. This often includes taking on leadership positions.  They, like every junior class before them, are also tasked with choosing how they’d like to fill the rest of their academic schedules. Planning for, scheduling, studying for, and taking either the SAT or ACT is another burden juniors have on their plates. These tests are often crucial for getting accepted into college. The AP standardized tests are another obstacle many juniors must face in the future, come May. With college just around the corner, juniors are edging ever closer to the daunting application process. Seniors have the excuse of “senioritis”, even though their stress over college is slowly coming to an end. With all of these current stress-factors and the uncertainty of the future, it’s no wonder burnout hits many juniors like a bag of AP textbooks.

The ordeal of junior year is chaotic at best. It throws unsuspecting students into the deep end with endless activity and more work than they’ve had in their past two years of high school. Yes, they may be taking a similar number of AP classes next year, but this is the first year they’ve had this much on their plates.

One of the biggest stressors for juniors is full schedules, which mean lots of work to take home. That, in turn, means very long nights. Clubs or sports may keep students at school until around five to seven, sometimes even later. Morning extracurriculars, such as lifting, wake students up around six in the morning. With difficult classes and an extensive amount of homework, students are spending hours a night on math problems, chemistry equations, and written essays. In school, many juniors take on leadership roles such as mentoring younger students and volunteering. These are often in preparation for senior year and are important additions to one’s resume. On top of school and extracurriculars, 16- and 17-year-old juniors are often starting to work a part-time job. All of this takes time away from the eight to ten hours of sleep that are recommended for teenagers.

While scheduling their classes, juniors ought to consider which will benefit them the most. They have to look toward college and then past their education to how they could apply those electives to their prospective occupations. These decisions can be overwhelming, but they don’t even come close to the college selection process. College selection means location, affordability and tuition aid, size, and a plethora of other factors. These choices are not only overwhelming, but they also plague the future with ambiguity. This can cause anxiety and increased mental strain.

In the meantime, juniors have plenty to stress over in the near future. With a few ACT and SAT dates already  come and gone, and registration for summer tests approaching quickly, they have a lot of choices to make. From which of the tests to take and when to take them, to whether or not to take them at all; these choices could seem completely pointless. Not only might they have a cynical viewpoint on decisions like these, but they could also not make them at all. Ignoring this critical juncture could negatively impact everything that follows. 

Juniors taking AP classes this year (and likely next year) have increased workloads, which are often more challenging than the standard Delbarton workload. If they feel overwhelmed or unable to meet the elevated requirements of these classes, they may give up entirely which would make it even more difficult to push themselves to prepare and study for the AP tests they have signed up to take.

 Many factors of burnout create behavior patterns that can bring someone to feel trapped. Procrastination, for example, is a common symptom. Putting off a task or taking longer to complete tasks often leads to a pile-up of work, which again leads to increased stress and pressure to get everything done on time. For example, exhaustion is both a cause and an effect of it. Lack of sleep can lead to stress; if sustained, this leads to a state of mental, emotional and physical fatigue. Similar to teenage depression, burnout can reduce motivation in students, diminishing their overall performance academically and in all of their activities.

Burnout can also have long-term negative effects, such as increased susceptibility to illness and disease, clinical depression and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. The feeling of not having enough gas in the tank to keep going is the main emotional burden of junior burnout. Burnout, while caused by stress, is not the same as stress. In fact, they’re almost foils of each other. While stress causes emotions to be hyperactive, burnout dulls emotions into depression. Both are serious. Stress at the extreme can lead to anxiety disorders which in turn shorten life expectancy. Burnout effectively turns off the light at the end of the tunnel, removing purpose from life.

Not unlike someone with depression, people suffering from burnout may find it difficult to express how they feel. However, the most common symptoms in teenagers are often connected with school. Homework and assignments may feel overwhelming, in-class work may seem dull, participation may seem pointless or unappreciated. Even after completing a task, a student with burnout is likely to feel no sense of accomplishment.

All of these burdensome symptoms also spill into other aspects of life. A sense of detachment from family and friends or just the general weight of loneliness are common emotional symptoms of burnout.

However, one of the best ways of combating burnout is by connecting with supportive people who make you happy. Limiting your interactions with negative or toxic individuals can relieve some of the stressors that are causing you to burn out. Communicating with bosses, teachers, or other people you trust can benefit both you and other people in those stressful environments.