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Stress is Not Just for Seniors
Tanya Owens
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Most people think that senior year is the most stressful time of high school. Ha! I’m a junior and before school started I knew it would be a lot of work, but I didn’t expect it to be so much that I would lose my mind. I thought I could handle it without any problems, but I guess I was wrong.

Three weeks after school started I became real mad and aggravated because I didn’t think I could do it all. My school makes us do nine portfolios, which are big projects consisting of work done from 9th grade to the current school year.

One day I came home from school and went in my room to do my work, and I started jumping from one project to the next. I had so much to do I couldn’t concentrate on one thing.

First, I was working on the four parts of my autobiography portfolio. I had to write my life story, prepare a resume, write out my career and college plans, and attach them nicely to three letters of recommendation (which, fortunately, I did have already).

I wanted to finish all the parts before winter vacation so my teacher could read them over. That way I would get a chance to revise them before handing in the final versions for a grade. But all the parts had to be typed, and I could never find the time to type at school because other kids in my class were always on the computers. And I don’t have a computer at home. I started to worry that I wouldn’t finish on time.

Thinking about my college plans for my autobiography portfolio made me remember that I was going to take the PSAT in a few weeks. My teachers had been talking about the test since the first week of school. I was scared I wasn’t going to do well, and therefore I wouldn’t be prepared to take the SAT in May.

I especially feared the math section because one, I hate the subject, and two, I hadn’t learned a lot of the hard math that is on the test. And three, I really didn’t know what the test was like. I bought an SAT practice book, but every time I took the quizzes in the book I got the wrong answers and still didn’t understand what I was doing. At my school I was taking PSAT classes on Fridays but they didn’t start until three weeks before the test. I felt it wasn’t enough time to learn all I’d need to know to score well.


I felt like my head was about to explode. So I decided to call my 25-year-old sister, Tina. She has a job where she has to be organized and she always gives me good advice. She’s always been there when I needed someone to talk to. In school she had to work hard to keep her grades up, so I felt she would have some insight into what I was going through.

“Hi, Tina, can I talk to you?” I said.

“Hi, Tan, sure,” she said. “What’s up?”

“I’m so stressed I can’t take it,” I told her. “I bought an SAT book but I feel I’m gonna fail. And besides that, I can’t do my portfolio.”

“Take one thing at a time, don’t stress yourself so much,” Tina said. “The PSAT is just practice to see what you need to learn and it doesn’t count as far as the colleges are concerned. They just look at your real SAT score. Just study as much as you can.”

“Yeah, but my portfolio is bugging me. I’m working on my autobiography, but I haven’t started typing yet and I have two other parts of it to do also,” I said, complaining away. “And do you know that I’ll still have other portfolios left to do?”

“When are all these due?” she said.

“Just the autobiography and its parts are due in January,” I said. “The other portfolios are either due at the end of the school year or they’ll be done during senior year.”

“Well, stick to the autobiography,” Tina told me. “Don’t worry about the others that are due later until you finish that one. You’ll be OK.”

“OK, thanks Tin,” I said.

Talking to my sister made me calm down a little. Hey, I’m too young to get gray hair from being so stressed out. So I decided to try what my sister told me.

Since that day, I’ve started making real good progress. I took the PSAT in October and wasn’t nervous. I finished my autobiography and typed it, too, by finally getting a spot on a computer at school.

I still have a big project to do for each of my classes but I’m not getting stressed out anymore. I just do as much as I can and take one thing at a time. I realize the less time you spend worrying, the more time you have to get stuff done.

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(NYC-1995-12-19)

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