Competition concern

Is academic competitiveness harmful to students?

Chloe DaSilva, Opinion Editor

High school can be a lot. From the endless nights of studying to the volunteer hours and the much-dreaded college applications, students are challenged in ways they’ve never been before. To add to these stresses, we’ve all encountered the pressure of the toxic comparison culture among students to some degree. It’s a struggle not often talked about, the silent pain of hearing “what’d you get?” realizing your score didn’t equate to your classmates. 

This destructive system known as academic competitiveness is seen as a daunting form of motivation, to be “better” than your fellow students. After all, we’re competing for the same scholarships, acceptances to a prestigious college and ultimately that sweet sense of superiority. But is this competitiveness actually beneficial to us? 

A lot of us have succumbed to the idea of stacking our resumes with advanced classes and extracurriculars, but the reality of these self-inflicted hardships can be detrimental. Yes, there are people who can productively maneuver among these responsibilities, but there’s no need to feel lesser than if you can’t. Numerous studies have shown direct correlations between academic competition and increased risks of anxiety and depression. According to Competition, Anxiety and Depression in the College Classroom, students who perceive their classroom environments to be very competitive have 37% higher odds of screening positive for depression and 69% higher odds of screening positive for anxiety.

 You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your physical and mental wellbeing for a test grade exceeding that of your peers or membership in ten clubs. However, sometimes these burdens are unavoidable, whether it be because of the inescapable pressure of your parents or simply your own self-pride. So here’s the real question, if this prevalent comparison culture is constantly looming over us, what can we do to minimize its influence? 

As cliche as it sounds, try to learn for the sake of learning. Refrain from immediately giving in to the murmurs around the classroom after a test, as everyone seeks validation in knowing they received a better score than someone else. There isn’t any shame in cutting down on your load and dropping a couple of activities that you don’t enjoy or will benefit you in the long term. Don’t engage in an activity or class because it’s what you think is expected of you or simply because your peers are doing it. 

If you’re confident in your academic and extracurricular choices, a beneficial tool that many of us don’t utilize is asking for help. Teacher, parental and peer support can help in keeping the stress of your responsibilities under control. Forming study groups and working with your classmates rather than comparing yourself to them can make all the difference in your survival of a crippling course load. 

High school is a time full of self-doubt and the imminent feeling like we aren’t doing enough, or that we don’t measure up to our classmates. If we focus on working together and making the most of these limited years rather than stressing over a frivolous test grade, we’ll create deep-rooted memories and connections that make it worthwhile.