From being on campus for the first time to the daunting academic stress of junior year, the Class of 2023’s first year at IMSA will be an unusually steep climb. It is, frankly, impossible to cover every challenge juniors will face in the upcoming year. Rather, this article will serve as an introduction to a recurring How to IMSA: Advice to Juniors column. Whether it’s finding an SIR, preparing for the SAT, or choosing courses, a well-seasoned senior will take you chronologically through every nook and cranny of your junior year. But for now, let’s focus on the most prevalent and immediate challenge of your near future: succeeding in the social and academic spheres of IMSA life.
The daily IMSA schedule is packed. Here’s a general look:
- 7:15AM – 7:45AM Wake-up and get ready
- 7:45AM – 8:00AM Breakfast
- 8:00AM – 11:15AM Morning Classes
- 11:20AM – 1:00PM Lunch and Titan Crew
- 1:05PM – 4:30PM Classes
- 4:30PM – 6:30PM Clubs and/or Sports
- 6:00PM – 7:00PM Dinner
- 7:00PM – 9:00PM Study and/or Socialize
- 9:00PM – 10:00PM Clubs
- 10:00PM – 12:00AM Study and/or Socialize
- 12:00AM – ? Study
- ? – 7:15AM Sleep
Even though your schedule is highly flexible, it will always be filled from dawn to dusk. There are always classes to go to, meetings to attend, friends to talk to, and homework to do. Naturally, time management at IMSA becomes the single most important skill to have. Several Acronym articles, such as How To IMSA: Unique Time Management Techniques (Mara Adams), How To IMSA: Time Management And Study Tips (Shubhi Verma), and A Guide To Time Management (Maria Kuznetsov) give plenty of explanations and tips on combating this long-lasting struggle in the IMSA community.
Now, look at the blocks labeled “Study and/or Socialize”. The social community at IMSA is strong – almost too strong. You have 652 driven kids with diverse interests living within a few hundred yards of each other. With so many people passionate about their niche topics, we’re bound to be curious about others and learn from them when put together. Without the nagging authority of parents, it’s easy to let instinct and short-term pleasure supersede what’s better for you in the long term. I won’t deny that those late-night conversations with my wingmates have produced my best memories of IMSA – but they’ve also produced my worst. Running on less than 4 hours of sleep for a whole day, not comprehending anything I’m learning in class, pouring tears of confusion and frustration over my homework, and consequently sleeping later than I intended… it’s a menacing, self-perpetuating cycle.
However, many of my classmates felt the opposite about balancing studying and socializing. Upon hearing nightmarish stories about the difficulty of classes and receiving intimidating amounts of homework, many students spend excessive hours in their room studying. Keep in mind that the most famous phrase spoken by IMSA seniors is “I came for the academics, but stayed for the people”. As Keelyn O’Brien (‘16) reflects in her article Seniors Speak: The First Piece of Advice, “The people here are some of my best friends, my closest confidants, and a family that I chose”. Memories like dancing your heart out to the Homecoming Drill, having an immersive learning experience in Bollywood music with your Indian wingmate, walking to Orchard on a vibrant fall afternoon, or figuring out the meaning of life with your quad in the wee hours of the morning are the memories that will stick with you decades after leaving IMSA. Your ABS protein folding notes? Not so much. As quarantine has shown us, your time at IMSA is limited and precious. Choose wisely.
While typical IMSA sophomores get to tackle the social temptations of IMSA on a fairly light academic schedule, the Class of 2023 will have to learn to conquer both social and academic spheres simultaneously.
However, that’s not to say studying and socializing are incompatible. IMSA is fundamentally a collaborative place. From problem sets and take homes in your math classes to ABS lab reports, your classmates are your greatest assets. Find two to four responsible and productive people in your class. Check answers with each other, prepare for tests together, read over each other’s papers, go to office hours with your teacher together, etc. Academically, having a group will force you to stay on track with assignments and boost your grade; while socially, many attest that struggling through a difficult class together is one of the best bonding experiences at IMSA.
Reaching out isn’t limited to just the people in your grade. One of IMSA’s best and most unique qualities is how close students are across grade levels. Wing communities foster extraordinarily strong bonds between sophomores, juniors, and seniors. If you ever feel confused, frustrated, or upset over something, chances are your upperclassmen have gone through a similar emotional situation. Historically, IMSA upperclassmen go out of their way to help sophomores adjust to IMSA life. I’m confident the Class of 2022 will treat their juniors and sophomores with the same compassion we received two years ago. If you aren’t comfortable enough asking a specific senior, remember that the strength of IMSA’s online communities has proven itself over quarantine. Ask myself or any of the admins – Sebastian Ramos (‘21), Jamie Im (‘22), Cam Magana (‘22), or Willow Dennison (‘22) – for an invite to their Facebook group. There, IMSA students frequently post questions and reliably receive helpful advice and responses. No matter what, always remember that your peers are there to help you.
The Class of 2023 will face a uniquely challenging year. However, by perfecting time management skills, collaborating with peers, and seeking support from the IMSA community, I am confident that juniors will conquer every obstacle that comes their way. Keep your eyes peeled for future editions of this Advice to Juniors column. There, a veteran IMSA senior will guide you chronologically through the specific hurdles of junior year.