What is the hardest year of high school? (2023)

You might be wondering what the most difficult year of high school is and how you should handle it (spoiler alert: it's usually junior year).

If you’re curious about why high school is hard, and interested in getting some tips, we've got you covered! To help you be successful in high school without making it too difficult or overwhelming, we talked to Michelle McAnaney of The College Spy. Here’s what you’ll learn in the article below:

  1. What is the most difficult year of high school?
  2. Why is junior year the most difficult year of high school?
  3. How can you have a successful junior year?
  4. How do you ace junior year / high school without the stress?
  5. How can you alleviate stress and advocate for yourself in high school?
  6. How to maximize a campus visit
  7. How to set yourself for success as a junior in high school
  8. Tips for rising 9th graders
  9. About The College Spy

Don't feel like reading?Watch the full interview here:

Today’s Expert:

Our college admissions expert today is Michelle McAnaney from The College Spy. Michelle has 20 years of experience working with students to help them reach their full potential. She has a lot of knowledge on colleges and what the admissions process is like, so she works toward getting students into their best fit schools.

(Video) What is the hardest year of high school? (2020)

Her extensive admissions knowledge is coupled with firsthand experience with the colleges and universities students will be considering for their applications. Michelle tells students and families that the best way to get to know a college is to visit, and she holds herself to the same standard. She visits approximately 40 colleges each year (not during the pandemic, of course), attending information sessions and open houses, taking tours and meeting with admissions officers.

What is the hardest year of high school? (1)

What is the most difficult year of high school?

Although some people might find that freshman year of high school is challenging, junior year would typically be the most difficult, busy, and important year because of everything you have to juggle from academics, extracurricular activities, and college preparation to still keeping a social life.

Why is junior year the most difficult year of high school?

You may already be used to what high school is like, but junior year is the year that you really start to think about the college process. For the most part, you’ll be taking your most difficult classes and preparing for standardized tests, so it can be stressful because colleges will be looking at these grades and scores.

How can you have a successful junior year?

Starting junior year might be intimidating, but you should still consider taking some advanced classes like APs or IB classes. This can be a good challenge for you, and it can show what you’re capable of as a student.

(Video) Verdict Is In: These Are The Hardest Years Of Your Life!

Regarding academics and activities, Michelle told us:

“Adding academic rigor can be helpful in terms of getting into college. So for some students, that's taking their first honors course or AP course, for other students it's taking a full load of AP courses. And my other advice is around extracurricular activities which is to be involved in things that you're interested in. And if you're not sure what you're interested in, try new things to figure that out.”

Michelle went on to succinctly summarize just why junior year is the most important year of high school, even if it might not be the most difficult for you:

“Junior year is the most indicative year of how you will do in college."

What is the hardest year of high school? (2)

How do you ace junior year of high school without the stress?

No matter how important this time may be, it’s equally as important to destress and not get so caught up in all the work. It’s a good thing to know that anything can change down the road, so don’t pressure yourself and feel like you need to have everything figured out, especially at such a young age.

As Michelle says:

(Video) What year in high school is the hardest?

I help students understand that nothing in life is set in stone 100%, you can start one place and end up somewhere else. And you can start thinking you wanted one thing and change your mind. That's okay!”

How can you alleviate stress and advocate for yourself in high school?

Your school guidance counselor can be very helpful to you, so you should reach out to them if you ever feel like you need help. Michelle encourages you to do some networking with different people, like teachers, counselors, friends, acquaintances, etc.

Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and ask teachers questions or go to extra help. It’s important to be active and engaged, so reach out to others and express your interests, especially if you need to ask your teachers for recommendation letters.

How to maximize a college campus visit

When we're not living in a pandemic, it’s helpful to visit one school in a day That way you can truly absorb everything about the school. Going on college tours and paying attention to information sessions are obviously very valuable.

But to see if you would actually enjoy living on a particular college campus, trythe following:

  • Spend some time in libraries
  • Go to the dining halls
  • Look at dorm rooms
  • Visit classrooms

As Michelle suggests, here are some specific questions to ponder when you're on a college campus visit:

I advise students to spend time in the dining hall and eat there and sit down and say “Would I fit in with these other students here?” “Would I feel comfortable sitting at a table with some of the people who I see here?” “Are people happy?” “Are they talking to each other?” “Are they looking at their phones?” things like that and I encourage students to go to the library and sit down “Would I feel comfortable here ?” “Is this where I want to be studying?”

Additionally, you can visit Michelle’s resources section of her website for a list of questions you should be able to answer after a college visit. It’s also good to identify a few of the things that you are really looking for in a school and some of the things you wouldn’t want in a school.

(Video) Student sent back to 9th Grade from 12th Grade

How to set yourself for success as a junior in high school

Since junior year is a busy time, you should try to stay organized and work on managing your time more efficiently. You’ll probably have more assignments and deadlines, so keeping track of everything and making sure you finish your work on time is important.

Some of the tips Michelle has are:

  • Spend time making a commitment to do what is actually meaningful to you (i.e. get rid of the distractions!)
  • Start your college research at the beginning of junior year or even sooner
  • Create and write down academic and extracurricular goals

Setting goals for yourself can be extremely helpful, especially if you write them down to actually make a commitment to them. Michelle says,

“It could be simple things like make sure to get extra help twice for math or always review my notes before tests.” But it all depends on you and what you want your school year to look like."

Tips for rising 9th graders

While junior year is often the hardest year of high school, the transition from middle school to 9th grade can also be tough. To make it easier, don't feel afraid to reach out to your teachers and counselors, and take advantage of the support resources that are available. And an easy way to meet new people and make new friends is to get involved in clubs or extracurricular activities that you are genuinely interested in.

As Michelle puts it:

“I'm always encouraging students to get involved from their point of view. It will help you get into college but It'll also just make your high school experience better, more dynamic, and more interesting.”

About The College Spy

The College Spy helps students explore and get accepted into the colleges that are the best fit for them. Michelle visits many different colleges, so she is able to use this knowledge to help students figure out what they’re looking for in a school.

(Video) Top 5 Easiest and Top 5 Hardest AP Classes

“I can match students with colleges that are good fit for them and their goals, their academic needs, their personal needs, the financial, considering all of these things. I do know a lot about colleges in particular and then I have a lot of expertise behind admissions and how things work in the admissions office and how students can tailor their applications to help maximize their chance of acceptance.”

So if you’re struggling with high school work and college, remember that there are different ways to get some help. Talk to your teachers and counselors, and if you have access to other resources, make sure to use them!

Junior year is a very important year for college admissions. But overall, you should work hard with academics and extracurriculars (don’t put too much pressure on yourself though!)


What is typically the hardest year of high school? ›

While each year of high school will have its own stressors, many will say junior year is the most challenging. Junior year can be the hardest for several reasons, but with the right prep and expectations, high school students can make the hardest year just a little easier.

What is the easiest year of high school? ›

Going into high school, many students hear that freshman year is the “easiest” year. Some think that colleges don't consider it as much as they do one's sophomore, junior, and senior years. While this is typically true, it doesn't mean that students should entirely dismiss the importance of their freshman year.

Is sophomore year harder than freshman? ›

Your sophomore year is just as important as your freshman, junior, and senior years in high school. However, I know that sophomore year will get a little harder than freshman year. You'll probably have more homework but do well to complete all of them if you want to maintain your grades.

Which year is the best year of high school? ›

While all the years of high school are important, junior year is definitely one that stands out for many reasons, and for college-bound teens, it may be the most important year of their high school career.

What is the most failed high school class? ›

Can you name the most frequently failed high school course? It's a subject that students have called “difficult,” “challenging,” and, at times, “torture.” Yes. It's a math class.

What grade is most difficult? ›

While junior year is often the hardest year of high school, the transition from middle school to 9th grade can also be tough. To make it easier, don't feel afraid to reach out to your teachers and counselors, and take advantage of the support resources that are available.

What grade are most 16 year olds in? ›

Year / Grade Placement
AgeUK YearsUS/International Grades
14 - 15Year 109th Grade (Freshman)
15 - 16Year 1110th Grade (Sophomore)
16 - 17Year 12 / Lower 6th11th Grade (Junior)
17 - 18Year 13 / Upper 6th12th Grade (Senior)
10 more rows

How old are most 12th graders? ›

United States. The twelfth grade is the twelfth school year after kindergarten. It is also the last year of compulsory secondary education, or high school. Students are often 17–18 years old, and on rarer occasions, can be 19 years old.

Which grade is harder in high school? ›

The reality is that Grade 11 is, for most, the hardest academic year of high school. This isn't because the content you're learning is so much harder than anything you've learnt before but because you: have more content to cover than ever before.

Is Grade 10 hard? ›

Grade 10 is an important transition year. You are required to do fewer subjects but the workload and difficulty of the subjects that you keep often increases. Sometimes, students who have done well in grade 8 and 9 struggle in grade 10 due to the increased difficulty.

What grade in high school is most important? ›

Most college admissions committees consider your 11th-grade transcript to be the most important.

How old is the average freshman? ›

In the United States, ninth grade is usually the first year in high school. In this system, ninth graders are also often referred to as freshmen. It can also be the last year of junior high school. The typical age for U.S. 9th grade students is 14 to 15 years.

What's a good GPA for a freshman? ›

In most cases, a high GPA is somewhere between 3.50 and 4.00, and a low GPA is somewhere between 1.50 and 2.00. Understanding what constitutes a good grade point average (GPA) is important.

What is the least important year in high school? ›

Putting freshman grades in context. For colleges, the freshman year is typically the least important year on the high school transcript (they figure you're just trying to find the school every day).

Does 12th grade GPA matter? ›

Your senior year grades hold weight on your overall GPA, which is one of the components, along with SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, etc., that institutions review as part of the admissions process.

Which year of high school goes by the fastest? ›

Freshman Year

High school goes by so quickly, and you don't want to save all of your work for when you're just a few months away from graduating.

What GPA is a failed class? ›

At most colleges, a final grade below 60% qualifies as a failing grade. Depending on your college's GPA scale, that can mean anything below a 1.0 or 0.7 GPA counts as a failed class.

What happens if I fail algebra 1? ›

Students who fail Algebra I are required to recover the credit during high school to earn a diploma, and online credit recovery courses have become a popular strategy in schools and districts around the country.

What is the lowest grade to fail? ›

You'll usually need to receive a letter grade between A and D to pass a class, often the numerical equivalent of 65 percent or higher. Receiving an F—which stands for “fail”—indicates that you did not pass the class.

What grade Fails in America? ›

A letter grade of a D is technically considered passing because it not a failure. A D is any percentage between 60-69%, whereas a failure occurs below 60%.

What grades are failing? ›

Any grades between 55 and 69 (D and F) are considered failing grades for which unit credit is not earned. While unit credit is not earned for a failing grade, point value is assigned for a D and an F for purposes of computing grade point averages.

Can you be 17 in 8th grade? ›

I'm 17 in eighth grade. Yea, I know, it's very embarrassing. Sometimes I cry about it because it really bothers me. The reason why I am in this position is because when I was young, I struggled in school, and my mother moved around multiple times.

What grade is a 16 year old in Japan? ›

School levels
AgeGradeEducational establishments
14-153 (9th)Junior high school/Lower secondary school (中学校 chūgakkō) Compulsory Education
15-161 (10th)Senior high school/Upper secondary school (高等学校 kōtōgakkō, abbr. 高校 kōkō)
16-172 (11th)
17-183 (12th)
17 more rows

Can you be 15 in 11th grade? ›

Yes. It is not common, but a kid could skip a grade or two and be in 11th grade. Our daughter was 15 when she entered 11th grade.

How old is a 17th grader? ›

What grade am I in?
Student Age (as of September 1, 2023)American Grade Equivalent
17 years oldGrade 12
16 years oldGrade 11
15 years oldGrade 10
14 years oldGrade 9
7 more rows

What is the most stressful grade in high school? ›

Junior year is often thought of as the most stressful year as a highschooler. Students have a demanding workload from AP classes and standardized tests like the ACT and SAT.

Is 11th or 12th grade harder? ›

Hi 11th standard is comparatively tougher than 12th. so before starting 11th class go through the basics and formulas related to 11th class and try to solve questions of math, physics, chemistry from NCERT book.

Why is Grade 11 so important? ›

Last Updated : August 5, 2022

This grade is important because it is one step toward your final year in High School (Matric). You must invest in your Grade 11 studies to make it to Matric. If you do well in Matric, you will be able to advance your career through university studies or entry-level employment.

Is a 15 year old in 10th grade? ›

In the USA, a 14-15-year-old is usually in 9th grade or their freshman year of high school, and a 15-16-year-old is in 10th grade or their sophomore year.

How old can a 10th grader be? ›

Tenth graders are normally aged 15–16.

How to skip 10th grade? ›

How to start the process for skipping a grade level
  1. You send in a written request. ...
  2. You meet with professionals. ...
  3. There is a review of your child's academic achievement or test scores. ...
  4. Educators meet with your child. ...
  5. Officials evaluate your child's emotional and social readiness.
Aug 24, 2022

What is the highest GPA? ›

The unweighted scale is most common, and the highest possible GPA on this scale is a 4.0. The unweighted scale doesn't take the difficulty of a student's classes into account. Weighted scales are also used at many high schools. Typically, they go up to a 5.0.

What grade do colleges look at the most? ›

Your junior year grades are essential: it's the grade a college will look at most, along with your senior year. Your grades predetermine your academic performance for your final year. Your GPA and the “sturdiness” of it matters.

What GPA do colleges look at? ›

Colleges consider your unweighted or weighted high school GPA alongside other grades, including your semester GPA and cumulative GPA. Admissions officers look at your official transcripts to contextualize your GPA and understand which classes you thrived.

Is Grade 9 important? ›

Grade 9 is the beginning of your High School experience. The Grade 9 year is very important as it is the year in which you demonstrate your strengths academically and choose your career path. At the end of this year, your grades will assist in constructing your high school program.

What is a 9th grader called? ›

Freshman Year (9th grade) Sophomore Year (10th grade) Junior Year (11th grade) Senior Year (12th grade)

How old is a 7th grader? ›

The seventh grade is the eighth school year, the second or third year of middle school, and the first year of junior high school. Students are around 12-13 years old in this stage of education.

What GPA is required for Harvard? ›

You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.

What is the average GPA for a 12th grader? ›

What is the Average GPA in High School in 2023? The average GPA in US High Schools is 3.0. This number varies by gender – the average female GPA is 3.1 and the average male GPA is 2.9.

What's a good GPA for a 10th grader? ›

A GPA over 3.0 is above average, but a higher GPA (between 3.5 and 4.0) is usually necessary to qualify for merit-based academic scholarships. What is this?

At what age does GPA not matter? ›

Once you've worked for 2-3 years, it's unnecessary to include your GPA. It's most relevant to include your GPA when it falls within the range of 3.5-4.0 to demonstrate high achievement levels.

What years do colleges look at? ›

Your first year and sophomore year affect your cumulative GPA, which is important to most colleges. However, a solid academic record in your junior year is likely to carry more importance with an admissions committee.

What happens if you get an F in senior year? ›

If you receive an “F” in a class required for graduation, you may not be able to graduate on time. While some schools will still let you attend your graduation ceremony, you would still have to attend a summer class to finish your requirements before officially receiving your diploma.

What year matter most in high school? ›

The freshman year is the most important year of high school and a crucial chance for a fresh start. Strong students can quickly fall off course if they start cutting classes and blowing off homework.

What year of high school do grades matter the most? ›

- Junior year grades are THE most important. Sophomore and freshman grades are given less of an emphasis. - Although senior year performance won't be considered, the rigor of your senior year will contribute to your admissions decision.

What year is least important in high school? ›

Putting freshman grades in context. For colleges, the freshman year is typically the least important year on the high school transcript (they figure you're just trying to find the school every day).

Is a GPA of 5.0 good? ›

Typically, high schools that employ weighted GPAs use a 0–5 scale, with 5.0 being the best score available. Although a GPA above 5.0 is uncommon, schools occasionally design their point systems so that students enrolled in difficult courses might accrue extra points.

Which GPA do colleges look at? ›

An unweighted GPA is the most popular grade point average reporting scale. It is used in high schools and colleges across much of America.

What year GPA do colleges look at? ›

Your first year and sophomore year affect your cumulative GPA, which is important to most colleges. However, a solid academic record in your junior year is likely to carry more importance with an admissions committee.

How old are most 11th graders? ›

Most students enter this grade as 16 year olds, but some might enter early as 15 and late as 17.

What is the lowest grade in high school? ›

Academic grading in the United States commonly takes on the form of five, six or seven letter grades. Traditionally, the grades are A+, A, A−, B+, B, B−, C+, C, C−, D+, D, D− and F, with A+ being the highest and F being lowest.

How hard is sophomore year? ›

You'll be expected to do more work and take more responsibility. It's expected that you built up your study skills during your freshman year. So, you can now hone them during your sophomore year. The amount of homework goes up, and the classes get even more challenging.


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