University of Wisconsin–Madison

Third Year: Reflections and 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 parents and family members, remind your third-year students to consider the skills that they are learning and how those skills can be applied in the future. Note that these skills are as important as a specific major.

Achieving junior status comes with a new set of challenges. For the first time, students may be trying to answer — for themselves, their family members, and others — questions about their plans after college.

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, and 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 grade point averages.

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 students to enjoy the remaining time in college, expand their peer circles, 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 students to avoid being overwhelmed by the unknown.

Tips for Parents and Families

  • Remind your student of the available campus resources that can help with creating goals, planning for the future, and navigating change.
  • If your students are interested in exploring majors and careers, direct them to the Career Exploration Center, an extension of the Cross-College Advising Service.
  • Encourage your student to take advantage of academic assistance, such as the Greater University Tutoring Service, a free program that connects UW students with volunteer tutors for assistance with academic courses, study skills, conversational English, and intercultural exchange.