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Junior-Year Transitions

Students can see the finish line. But they’re not there yet.

During junior year, students can reflect on what they’ve already accomplished while looking ahead to life after graduation. It’s an exciting time, but also one that can make students feel anxious about what comes next — especially for those who have grown comfortable in their college life and routine.

Junior year can bring about times of confidence and uncertainty; students are confident because they have reached the halfway point of college, yet they are uncertain about what awaits them. They may have decided upon a major, yet they don’t know what kind of jobs they may get after graduation.

As a parent, remind your junior-year student to consider the skills that he or she is learning and how those skills can be applied in the future. Note that these factors are as important as a specific major.

Achieving upperclassman status comes with a new set of challenges. For the first time, students may be trying to answer — for themselves, their parents, and others — questions about their plans for after college. They want to be able to give junior-year-level answers.

In addition, as students begin seeing the end of their college years, nostalgia often kicks in. Getting lost on campus freshman year seems like a distant memory. They’ve grown attached to people and places at the UW. When they think about a tough job market in which many talented people are looking for work, campus can begin to feel like a home they’d rather not leave. Remind your student that it’s all part of the college experience and growing up.

Junior year can be more academically rigorous because students are becoming more immersed in their courses. This can be both stressful, as the workload intensifies, and rewarding, as topics become more relevant to specific interests. Encourage your student to call upon the campus career center and career counselors, meet with advisors and professors, and continue to strengthen his or her grade point average.

The junior-year transition can resemble the end of high school as students see their senior-year friends getting ready to graduate. Rites of passage include relationships becoming more grown-up and students asserting more independence.

Remind your student to enjoy the remaining time in college, expand his or her peer circle, find new ways to enjoy life on campus and in the city, and look forward to what is coming next. Taking it one step at a time will help your student to avoid being overwhelmed by the unknown.

Tips for parents