If you couldn’t avoid reading this article, consider yourself very lucky because you must likely just started your junior year of college. First thing first, congratulations. You have reached halfway through your college journey and survived tough classes, pretty bad hangovers and everything in between. The finish line might seem closer from where you stand now, dreaming about the day you proudly walk across the stage wearing your cap and gown while your relatives enthusiastically shout out your name. But hold on.
Maybe you think that a year more of college won’t add anything to your life or your college experience, but believe me, junior year will transform you in every possible way. From physical and emotional to academic and professional shifts, everything in your life will take a different, more exciting turn. Keep your focus on this year in particular because now, more than ever, everything that you decide to do or not will define your future. It might sound a little melodramatic but bear with me and keep reading to understand what I mean.
I wish someone told me this during my junior year. Now I feel the need to say what I didn’t know.
Transitioning into Adulthood
As a junior college student, you find yourself in the middle between youth and adulthood. You can’t avoid it no matter how hard you try to push it back, but as soon as you turn 21, which you must likely do this year, you officially form part of the next generation of folks who graduate and don’t know what to do with their lives. Even if they think to know, deep down they really don’t. But you need to get your s*** together. Enough with enrolling in classes that you really don’t care about, boring summers with nothing to do or going through college as if you still go to high school. It seems overwhelming, but welcome to real life.
Plenty of students look forward to this moment as I did when I was transitioning to junior year. It sounded appealing to me, and to almost every junior student, to finally legally drink and go to clubs without the bouncer doing a deep x-ray examination of your ID and the way you look. Besides, I really wanted to get an internship and jumpstart my journalism career. More than needing it, I wanted to first-row experience the life of a writer/reporter, and I felt eager to hone my raw writing skills.
My junior year in particular came with the downfall of a global pandemic. Everything paused for a whole year, closing doors meant to open new paths for personal and professional growth. I, for example, prolonged my transfer from Florida International University to the University of Florida. When I finally got there, I felt like living in a ghost town where the only thing I could see were the lost and distant eyes of my unknown classmates.
Anyways, during this year you realize you’ve reached adulthood. You might still consider partying as a top priority, but now other things compete with it like getting a summer job or internship. Most importantly, you really need to sit down and start planning your future as a professional whatever. You should have by now a clearer vision of what you want to do with your life in the next couple of years. If you didn’t realize it yet, the time for you to put that into practice starts now.
Re-touching Your Resume and Getting an Internship
By junior year, you already know how college works. So, you should know how to optimize your time, organize yourself and deal with procrastination, stress and anxiety. Although these last three things, no matter how hard you try, can’t seem to let you breathe (I know that from my own experience). Also, by now, you probably brainstormed ideas of the things you would like to try out within your chosen career field, so you need to start working on your resume and fill out internship applications.
You can find plenty of resources on campus or within your college department on how to build your resume or improve it if you already had one. I recommend you go to at least one session with someone who can help you or give you advice on resume building. Employers really take meaningful considerations on resumes, so you really need to create one that would stand out among the numerous applications they receive daily. Going to your college career center might help you learn how to inquire about a job, interview etiquette and useful skills when you apply for a position.
You can start researching companies or small businesses in which you would like to intern during the start of the spring semester. You can choose a position related to your major to boost your career, or you can choose something else that you feel drawn to. Students can choose whether or not to do a summer internship, but I truly believe that professors and faculties should force students to take one. What we learn in a classroom can’t compare to the real experience in the outside world, plus, internships can open plenty of doors when you graduate and want a full-time job. The more internships you can get through college, the more experiences, an extensive background, and many more doors open for future jobs.
Another great thing about junior year includes enrolling classes no longer related to the general courses that every college student must take. Instead, for the next two years, the courses you’ll choose will take you deeper into your career field, teaching you more than you could ever think of, and hopefully, making you fall in love with your career. I recommend you meet with your academic advisor to check whether you missed school credits and how to make them up. You can also start to consider exploring the world and do a semester abroad if you would like to study and live in another country.
Coming to Terms with Yourself
During junior year, you feel empowered, wanting to take on the whole world, capable of doing whatever your heart and mind desire. Two years passed already, you don’t feel homesick anymore; instead, you look forward to going back to your daily routine in your apartment with your college friends. You feel settled in, and you know your surroundings pretty well. You establish closer relationships with your friends in the last two years and those friendships will last for the remaining two, and hopefully during life after college as well.
Junior year truly lists the best college year for almost everyone I know. You don’t feel young anymore, but not too old either. You find yourself in the best middle point, where you can make decisions of your own while adulthood life seems somewhat far away. Juniors really live the best of both worlds. This year, you will find yourself and plenty of opportunities to learn what you want and what you don’t academically, professionally and personally. In junior year, students reach the age in which they can take care of themselves because their maturity allows them to do so, and they got used to the college routine, so everything might sound exciting, appealing and adventurous to them.
Warning: think smartly. Two years might sound like too long to figure out life. On the contrary, the next two years will pass so quickly that you won’t even understand where the time went. So, now, while enjoining your early twenties and living your best life, meeting new people, going to cool frat events and parties, you should keep responsibility and dedication as two core values. Think about who you really want to be and what you see yourself doing after college. If you dream about something, work hard to make that happen. Ask for help from your professors, mentors, advisors, classmates, family and friends. Absorb as much content and information as you possibly can and take advantage of every single opportunity that comes your way. Delete the word “no” from your vocabulary and go to every class, event, Zoom meeting, session, party, dinner… You never know where that can lead you.
Oh, I almost forget to say this, work hard on your things because no one else will do it for you. Your efforts matter regardless of whether you feel stuck or lost. Follow a healthy lifestyle while enduring the hardships of college. And for the sake of your mental health, never compare yourself to others. Just work on yourself and for yourself. By the end of the year, you’ll thank me.