Jumpstarting Junior Year

By Roberts, Marnie | Techniques, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Jumpstarting Junior Year


Roberts, Marnie, Techniques


With the stress and excitement of senior year right around the corner, 11th-grade students need to buckle down and focus on the future.

For many students, junior year is about firsts: first year as upperclassmen, first job interviews and first serious thoughts about postsecondary education.

"This is the time to make decisions," says Judy Peterson, a counselor at Granger High School in West Valley City, Utah. "We emphasize that all throughout the year. We try to get [students] motivated about vo-tech programs. In the spring, we hit them hard on the planning part--where they're headed and what to do to get there."

Ideally, 11th grade should be the culmination of two years of exploration and assessment of career options. At this point students should begin narrowing their focus to a few specific career areas or postsecondary options.

"Juniors tend to feel very secure about themselves," says Mike McLendon, a youth apprenticeship coordinator for the West Georgia Youth Apprenticeship Consortium. "To them, life's going pretty good.... A majority still think they'll go on to a four-year school, regardless of whether they actually will or not."

McLendon travels to area high schools and talks to juniors about what realistically awaits them after they graduate.

"I tell them, `Wake up! You're seniors next year. You need to consider your options,'" he says. "A lot of them know what it takes to get what they want, but the reality of it doesn't hit until [January of their] senior year."

Still, junior year should be spent helping students refine and strengthen their career goals, says Janie Lore, a youth apprenticeship coordinator for Coweta and Heard counties in Georgia. And, she says, they need to continue to build both their technical and "soft" skills--such as teamwork, communication and professional behavior.

Juniors at East Coweta High School can participate in a Workplace Readiness class, where they learn about skills they'll need in the real world, including work ethics and interview do's and dont's. Students in the class are required to shadow professionals in the field to make connections between the classroom and the workplace.

"Students from that class are often offered jobs because they ask appropriate questions and they have been able to fine-tune their career goals," Lore says. The elective class, which was originally offered to freshmen, actually is best suited for 11th-graders, she says. "They are more serious about seeing graduation as a reality. They have the maturity to make that kind of commitment and are more receptive to what a job entails."

Navigating the road to success

In a perfect world, a student's future would move in a straight line--from a great school to a great job, which, of course, has a great salary. But students need to prepare for post-high school twists and turns. Counselors suggest these steps to help juniors set the right course for their future careers.

Sell those skills. When it comes time to apply for college admission, a job or a scholarship, students should already have a portfolio on hand, says Lore. A typical portfolio should include a list of extracurricular activities, a resume and any honors, awards or certifications.

"It's really important that students learn how to document themselves," Lore says. "I tell my students, `You're selling your skills. You're showcasing what you know how to do.'"

Portfolios also are a popular way to assess a job candidate or college applicant. "Portfolios are becoming a big thing for postsecondary education. …

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