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5 Things I Told My Daughter at the Beginning of Junior Year

My oldest child is a junior in high school this year. I have spent my career giving advice to other families. Now it gets personal. 

Like many, my daughter had "summer reading" assignments, books to read, and pre-season to train for. Going back to school feels different this time around, though. All of a sudden, everything feels a whole lot more real—academics, sports, and the college admissions process. 
I am grateful she takes in what I have to say. She replies, "Yes, Mommy" or "I know, Mommy." It's the only time these days that she actually still calls me "Mommy." My heart melts. 
As she regales me with the most memorable moments of last year, I gather up the courage to talk about what is to come. She doesn't roll her eyes or change the subject, she leans in and I say...

1. I am so proud of you for wanting to take Advanced Placement courses.

But my love for you is not measured by how many you take. So enjoy those handpicked APs that you chose. And if one or more doesn't feel right, that's okay. You know the secret: use the add-drop period to make any changes to your schedule.  

2. Those junior year teachers are pivotal.

One or both of your letters of recommendation should come from junior year. You don't want to speak to your teacher for the first time in the spring and have to ask for a letter of recommendation. Reach out to them sooner. It will pay off.

3. Don't call yourself a leader; show that you are a leader.

This is your moment in your sport, activities, and courses to do everything you can for the collective good of the group. Your teammates, classmates, coaches, and teachers will see you rise to the occasion. Leadership roles may come as a result. But never stop leading no matter what title you have.

4. You need to take the ACT or SAT for the first time this year.

No matter what score you get, it's all going to be okay. Nearly 80% of all colleges are test-optional at this point. If you are not happy with your score, be happy with everything else you have achieved. I sure am.

5. Prioritize your mental health, friends, and having fun.

Junior year is challenging, but nothing is more important than your well-being.
"Yes, Mommy. I know, Mommy." Just like that she gave me a hug and then I gave her hug back because I wasn't ready to let her go. And she was off to start junior year.

READ MORE: What Test-Optional Colleges Don't Tell You About Test Scores