Courtesy of Drue Sokol

Everyone always asks, “Why are you so stressed? You’re only a junior — you still have time to do things!” Only a junior? Still have time? Do they really know what junior year entails? As a second-semester junior, I pretty much have to plan the next five to six years of my life right now.

I have to register for the GREs, buy GRE prep books, take a preparatory course (because I am definitely one of those people who need a classroom setting in order to force myself to study so, yeah, it’s worth the money for me), look at graduate schools (but hopefully not fall too much in love with any just in case my first choice needs a score of 55 million points and I don’t even come close to that), think about a topic for my senior thesis, find a summer internship and, oh right, not fail all my classes this semester.

As my father put it: “Your future is more important than your present right now.” Very deep, don’t get me wrong, but I find myself no less stressed after hearing that.
I bet current seniors can probably sympathize with me in this nerve-racking time. They know the trials and tribulations that come along with being a junior in college. I watched my older sister go through this difficult period a few years ago, although her experience was slightly different because she was studying to take the LSATs and applying to law schools.

Though she was applying to different types of schools, it was the same process and same types of stress as I am going through now. The 3 a.m. panic attack phone calls that I received used to frustrate me, but now I am following the same pattern. I saw her struggle through it all, from absurd LSAT logic questions (“If you and your friend each have four rubber bands and your teacher wants to eat a Granny Smith apple, what is Lady Gaga’s favorite color?”) to finding the right high quality paper to print her résumé on. She came out with flying colors (she is now a second-year law student at Boston College Law School), so I guess there really is a light at the end of the junior year tunnel. Her success story of surviving the junior struggle gives me hope for my own future, but I still have to find a way to get there.

Studies — and glances around Gleason cubicles — show that most juniors are in the same position as I am right now, but that somehow seems less than comforting. Sure, we are all in the same boat and so we have friends to commiserate with, but does it make the process any easier? Not much, though I guess it is a bit helpful to be able to knock on your suitemate’s door just to complain about junior-life activities over Chinese takeout, whining about summer internship applications while munching on egg rolls and vegetable lo mein. Maybe it doesn’t make the process any less strenuous, but friends certainly help ease the blow. I highly recommend a cathartic whining session with a fellow junior — repeated biweekly.

Gone are the days when I could procrastinate comfortably with time to spare to get my work done. Now, when “Once Upon a Time” or “Family Guy” call my name, I end up paying for the wasted hour or so by weeping into my tea while simultaneously writing a renaissance literature paper and looking up GRE test centers in my hometown.
Do I learn from my previous sleepless nights and procrastinate less? Sadly, no. Goodness knows, I try, but sometimes simply making a to-do list with all the tasks and assignments I need to accomplish is enough for me to stick my head in the proverbial sands of “The Simpsons,” thinking to myself that it’s actually healthier for my mind to relax before doing work. One day, science will prove this to be true and I’ll have been on to something.

I know that hindsight is 20/20 but really I don’t know if I could have eased my stress by starting this process earlier since I don’t know where I would have fit any part of this craziness into my life. Each year of college comes with its own set of stressors so I feel like this time in my college career is almost a right of passage; once completed, I’ll be on to the next set of daunting tasks that life throws at me. All the sleepless nights, the panicking at 5 a.m. about whether you hit “reply-all” instead of “reply” on that important email and hysterical phone calls to my unsuspecting best friend at RIT will hopefully pay off. Until then, I wish my fellow juniors good luck in their own junior year labors. We’ll make it out okay. Eventually.

Sokol is a member of
the class of 2013.

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