Precollege Pressure

With colleges becoming increasingly selective, the pressure for high school students to perform is dramatically increasing. As well, pressure from parents, peers and themselves leads to damaging effects including alcohol abuse, self-harm, academic bullying and mental health disorders.

High school is a large transition for many students and for good reasons. The student is walking into a tornado of IGP’s, AP classes, GPA’s, and standardized testing scores that determine the type of college they will be accepted to. This may just seem like the American education system, but the pressure to get into a good college has been taken to a whole new level. “83% of 1,000 teens said that school was, ‘somewhat or significant source of stress’” (Bethesada Magazine).

An average day at an American high school consists of the same routine: long days, after school activities, hours of homework, sleepless nights and getting up the next day just to drown their tired bodies in energy drinks and coffee to start the cycle all over again. It is no wonder that doctors have found “increasing numbers in mental health disorders and anxiety disorders in teens” (cognoscenti) because of the pressure that is coming from their school work. It is all boiling down to the acceptance into an elite college and as High School student, William Faulkner, explains that’s just the point, “If you can’t get into a good college and you don’t have that as part of a résumé to get to a job, then…life sucks”.

This stress is also encouraging underage drinking and alcohol abuse in teens. Many students “drink to relax because they are working so hard”, but this illegal act can easily spiral out of control. Self-harm rates are also increasing due to  students’ feeling of not being good enough, when in reality they are doing everything they can to keep up with their classmates. This is where the idea of academic bullying comes in. Many students aren’t taking the classes they want to take all because they will look inferior to their “higher achieving” peers.

We cannot fix this problem overnight, but we can begin by recognizing there is increasing anxiety and stress which schools can help reduce. The sense of “precollege” pressure is intimating, but if handled correctly by administration we can make a healthier learning environment.  For example, teachers can be asked to assign meaningful work opposed to busy work that is extensive and time consuming. They also can be asked to not assign group projects or large amounts of work over holiday breaks.

Many schools encourage shorter days, fun classes, and electives that students are taking for their own enjoyment, but some say that the culture all together needs to change. “We need to stop telling kids to be perfect. Nobody is perfect.” Kids can’t be expected to act as machines to attain a certain standard. Colleges will continue to expect certain criteria, but it is important that the student is doing what is right for them and not what others expect.