Advice to Incoming Juniors

With the summer coming to an end and the fall semester beginning, one beautiful third of our IMSA student body will experience what is commonly accepted as the most demanding year of high school. Welcome to junior year! 

Junior year grades weigh more heavily in the eyes of college admissions officers and expectations are high. It’s a stressful time where it’s really easy to lose track of what’s important, so here’s Acronym’s advice: 

Receiving/Changing Your Academic Schedule

A year ago, if someone told me what I’m about to tell you, I would have balked or maybe even laughed. Nevertheless, I will attempt to share the meager wisdom I have attained over the past year.  

This is the first year that you get more control over the classes that you are enrolled in. Going from the restricted choice of courses sophomores get to the nearly entirely customizable schedule of a junior can be overwhelming. You might have lingered on every choice you made about class selection, hoping that you get the classes that you’re passionate about taking and hoping that you’re making the right choice to take them. At least I know I did. However, twenty years from now, when all of us will be hopefully well into our careers, I doubt taking that one seemingly-unattainable elective will be the deciding factor for your success and happiness. Therefore, I wanted to remind you all that your schedule is not the end all be all it might seem to be now. No matter what your schedule looks like, your effort and hard work will still pay off. Graduation requirements exist for a reason, and as long as you are fulfilling them, you’re already on the right track. 


With that in mind, for those of you who still want to change your schedule, here’s what you can anticipate. Let’s all keep in mind that our current circumstances might affect the process of add/drop. 

Traditionally during add/drop week, the CACs offer slots for students to meet with them and alter their schedules. Though we don’t know how this will look yet, we can expect the rules for changing your classes to stay the same.

This graphic put together by the student council in 2016 sums up the process perfectly. If you have an empty spot in your schedule and there is an available spot in a class during that same period, you can add it. You can drop a class that is not required for graduation and add another class during those mods. You can only move a class if you have a compelling reason: prerequisite course failure, improper placement level, approved summer school course completion, or if you didn’t request the class.  

 If you’re anything like me, you’ll stress out about the entire process needlessly. If you find yourself doing that to yourself, I would suggest taking a minute to read Mara Adams’ hilarious “The Inevitable Riot of Add Drop.”

Volunteer Hours

As you all probably know, the graduation requirement is two hundred hours of community service all of which need to be completed prior to spring break of senior year. There are also intermediate checks and other requirements about how and where the hours can be completed:

  • Thirty (30) hours must be completed on the IMSA campus.
  • One hundred and twenty-five (125) of the 200 required service hours may be completed on-campus.
  • Fifty (50) hours of the 200 required hours may be completed out of the state/country.

Note: For the 2021 graduating class, the minimum and maximum hour requirements for internal and external service learning opportunities will be suspended. 

And most importantly for juniors: 

  • One hundred (100) hours must be completed by the end of the student’s 3rd semester at IMSA.

If we’re back on campus for the second semester of this school year, you might want to retain your residential privileges. To do that, you must have all of your hours in order before the semester begins. 

If you’re looking for some ways to get your hours, IMSA has put together a list of some great virtual service opportunities. 


As juniors, you now have the opportunity to participate in the Student Inquiry and Research program and get credit for your internship through IMSA. Read the handbook on SIR and Internships. Take advantage of this opportunity and start looking for places you would be interested in doing your work at. Ask upperclassmen and alumni what they did or look for your own opportunities. 

Study for Exams


As IMSA students, we’ve all taken the SAT for admissions and thus, are decently familiar with the type of questions that might appear on the PSAT/NMSQT. IMSA also requires its students to take the PSAT 10 during their sophomore year, and maybe you’ve even taken the PSAT 8/9 for your freshman year. 

While the previous PSAT exams haven’t had much direct impact for us, that changes with the PSAT/NMSQT. Besides the fact that, historically, students who take the PSAT/NMSQT score higher on the SAT, on average, than those who don’t take the test, students who take the PSAT/NMSQT can enter the National Merit® Scholarship Program, an academic competition for recognition and scholarships. If you score high enough, you might get some of the $255 million given out by Collegeboard’s scholarship partners in combined awards every year. Being a national merit scholarship finalist can be a great advantage for college admissions as well. 

If you’re planning to study, get started! October, the month of the test, may seem far away, but it’ll creep up on you much faster than expected.


Studying for the SAT and ACT can only help you. If the world wasn’t battling a global pandemic, I would have suggested that you take one or both exams by the end of the school year, but your safety is the first priority. With schools going test-optional for the class of 2021, we can’t predict if the same will be true for the class of 2022  yet. It can’t hurt to start studying though. Even if you scored pretty highly in the past, continuing to work to improve your scores can only help your college admissions chances. If schools decide to go test-optional and you don’t want to take one of the exams when the time comes, so be it.  

AP Exams 

Similarly, you can begin to study for your AP exams in the spring. Though IMSA doesn’t offer AP classes, several of the classes match the material in the AP curriculum. Some other classes nearly cover all the material and if you’re up for it, you could self-study the remaining material. 

  • Statistical Exploration and Description and Statistical Experimentation and Inference together match the Advanced Placement Statistics exam.
  • The AB Calculus track matches the Advanced Placement AB Calculus exam.
  • The BC Calculus track matches the Advanced Placement BC Calculus exam.
  • The BCI/II Calculus track matches the Advanced Placement BC Calculus exam.
  • Physics: Calculus-Based Mechanics matches the Advanced Placement Physics C Mechanics exam.
  • Physics: Calculus-Based Electricity/Magnetism matches Advanced Placement Physics C Electricity and
  • Magnetism exam.
  • Advanced Chemistry – Structure and Properties and Advanced Chemistry – Chemical Reactions together nearly match the Advanced Placement Chemistry exam.
  • Object-Oriented Programming nearly matches the Advanced Placement Computer Science A exam.
  • US Government and the Constitution aligns with a significant number of content expectations of the AP United States Government and Politics Advanced Placement exam.
  • American Studies has a decent overlap with the Advanced Placement United States History exam. 

These tests can save you time and money in college and are definitely worth your time to study and take. 

Take Care of Yourself and the People Around You

Things will be different this year. Your academics will evolve just like you will. The time that you used to have to hang out with your friends will be shortened, especially if you have a SIR or Internship. It might not be easy to adjust to at times, but I have faith that all of you will be able to.

Just remember to take time to just do nothing with the people that mean everything to you every once in a while, whether that is online or together in our dorms. We’re all in this together!


About the Author

Shambhavi Punjala
Hailing from Schaumburg, Illinois, Shambhavi Punjala is a senior at IMSA with many opinions that she loves to share. When she isn't doing work, you can probably find her either being a goofball with her sister, cooking, singing, watching medical dramas, or making Spotify playlists.

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