Students take an important step up in Grade 11 and engage with an appropriately more challenging academic program that demands more independent student responsibility, maturity, and intellectual sophistication.
The junior year offers students more independence in their academic program and overall life at school. Juniors are able to choose their advisor to a greater extent than younger students. Often students remain with the same advisor for both junior and senior years, enabling them to deepen the relationship between student and advisor. Many juniors take on community leadership roles during this year, whether through athletics, drama, debate, journalism, yearbook, or a variety of student organizations. During the month of May, and with parental permission, juniors in good academic standing may sign out and go off campus during free periods.
The college search process begins in earnest the junior year. During the fall semester, the college counselors begin to provide students with general advice and information during class meetings and small-group student meetings. Students and their parents attend a College Evening kick-off event, usually in January, featuring guest speakers. Throughout the spring semester college counselors meet individually with students and families to begin to explore student interests, college possibilities, and application guidelines.
The Junior Retreat, a two-night overnight in the spring, is a signature event for students. For each class, this retreat is an important experience, serving to help students bond as class and look ahead to their role as seniors in the coming year. Rituals on the Junior Retreat include a letter from parents, selecting the sequence for Senior Speeches, and a candlelight ceremony at which students can speak authentically to their peers. Soon after returning from the Junior Retreat the seniors leave campus to pursue their Senior Project, enabling the juniors to step into school leadership roles during the month of May.
Developmental themes in Grade 11 often focus on issues of identity, autonomy and leadership. Students this age increasingly students turn to their friends (rather than parents) for emotional support, and questions of identity—“Who am I? What are my values and priorities? What are my choices?”—are especially salient both within the academic and social world of SPA and in guiding the college search process. Adults may feel a “push/pull" dynamic with juniors as they assert their need for greater autonomy yet at the same time need clear and consistent boundaries from teachers and parents.