OPINION: Every year counts


By Jennie Lathrop and Nikki Schachtel

Throughout high school, we are sure you have been fed the same line of “only junior year is most important” at least once. While junior year can be looked at more intensely by some colleges, we would have to refute this statement. as we’re here to tell you that every year matters.

Most students do not try or put in effort their freshman and sophomore years, which sets them up for disappointment when receiving their transcript and applying for their dream schools. High school is all about building an education and improving from year-to-year, so if students have bad grades in their underclassmen years, it is usually difficult to get into an honors or AP level class in their upperclassmen years.

It is important to start out strong in high school and continue to use that effort all throughout high school. When a college is analyzing an application, there are a multitude of areas that are looked at, one being the rigor of courses and grades earned. Our guidance department has been working to drill this in student’s heads as early as middle school.

“We start as early as 8th grade in our scheduling meetings to explain to students that every year counts,” guidance counselor Kimberly Greulich said. “We mention this in our meetings with freshmen and sophomores as well, and during our freshmen and sophomore parent night presentations. We consistently mention that colleges look at all 4 years of class choices and 3 years of grades.”

Another thing that is analyzed by colleges is the cumulative GPA of a student. If a student does poorly their freshman and sophomore years, but has amazing grades their junior year, their GPA will not reflect only their junior year grades, but will be a combination of all three years. This shows a clear example of how a lack of effort in freshman and sophomore years can seriously affect a statistic that colleges look at, further emphasizing the need for effort in those first two years.

Colleges do a holistic view of an application, which means every part is looked at and included in their decision. This includes looking at how a student has impacted their community and what activities they partake in outside of school. The West Essex guidance department pushes for students to get involved. 

“We also encourage students to get involved and be an engaged member of the school community early on, as grades are not the sole component of a college application,” Greulich said.

Many underclassmen also do not realize just how fast highschool truly goes. It feels like within the blink of an eye, the once freshmen are applying to college as seniors. Many students feel it is too early to visit and research universities to find where they are interested in, but it is super important to start early. 

“I definitely have heard that only junior year matters,” Sophomore Andrew Adams said. “I didn’t try that hard freshman year and obviously the school closing was hard to adjust to. I think that focusing on college as a freshman is a little weird because it feels so far away.”

Starting the college search as early as freshman year and taking advantage of the search tools in Naviance can be so helpful to see what grades you will need to get into the school of your choice. Starting out early can allow students to tailor their courses to the difficulty that school looks for and continue to grow each year so when the time comes, they feel confident submitting their transcript.

“I didn’t start thinking about college until the middle of junior year, but now that I am applying to schools and sending my transcript in, I really wish I started earlier,” Senior Katelyn Doud said. “If I had known what grades dream schools were looking for, I would have tried harder earlier on, which would have allowed me to go into higher classes, to achieve those grades.”

We encourage every grade to take advantage of all that West Essex has to offer. Setting up meetings with guidance counselors, using peer tutoring, staying for extra help, studying with friends in the library during lunch and much more are all intended to help every student easily. Doing your best work and trying your hardest every year of high school will only lead you down a path of success. These are just some of the things we wish we had known this our freshman year, along with many other seniors. 

“Long story, short….is junior year more important than any other? No, not in our opinion,” Greulich said.