Students consumed by competition

Micha Gachpar and Ellie Pazol, Features Editors

The feeling of competition with  his peers appeared as early as elementary school for junior Ryan Hertzberg. Kindergarten activities were slowly replaced with projects and the tasks of learning how to read and write. 

“I’ve always been serious about my grades, probably since, like, first grade,” said Hertzberg. “That’s just me because I get really competitive about everything, and I’m a perfectionist.”

Kerri Newburger, schoolcounselor and testing accommodations coordinator, said competition between students is difficult to avoid because it stems from so many different areas.

“[This need to compete] comes from [students] themselves,” said Newburger. “It comes from parents and family members, it comes from what [students are] hearing from others and from the college level as well. … Everywhere you turn, there’s something … about competition or pressure or certain standards that have to be met.”

Junior Jeremy Livshots said he believes the competitive nature of students, when it comes to college admissions, stems from being in a talented school district. 

“Schools limit the number of applicants they take from each school,” said Livshots. “The average at [Glenbrook North] is so high you’re competing with your classmates for those same spots.”

According to junior Rujuta Pandit, she believes college is the biggest motivator for students because everyone wants to go to an “elite school,” and this desire creates competition, especially during junior year. 

School psychologist Jill Rodriguez said as students begin the process of committing to colleges, it instills a panic in people’s minds of “Oh no, what am I going to do?” and “Where am I at?” 

“When [students] are all in this tight of an environment, it feels different and it feels like you’re all kind of rushing to make this decision and wanting to make the best, the coolest [decision] and go where everyone else is going,” Rodriguez said.

Hertzberg said the culture of families and the constant push from parents about grades also creates a competitive environment that compels students to be the best.  

According to Rodriguez, parents might feel the need to push their kids to be as successful, or even more successful than themselves. 

“If [parents] see another student doing something similar to what they’d like for their child, they could be hard on their kid [and say] ‘Well, why aren’t you doing what so-and-so is doing?’ and that’s where the comparison starts up again of, ‘Why am I not like that?’ and that can be very tough because then you’re constantly thinking about that other student and comparing yourself,” Rodriguez said.

According to Livshots, seeing others do well causes further competition. 

“When everybody tries harder, you have to try harder,” Livshots said. 

Even though competition between students can create stress, Newburger said some aspects of competition can be helpful because they help students discover their full potential. A competitive atmosphere is beneficial as long as it does not interfere with a child’s ability to balance sleep, social life, family, school and outside activities. 

“If you have two people racing each other in a dead sprint, you’re more likely to reach your best time if you’re racing against somebody versus if you’re racing against time alone,” said Newburger. “I think there is a part of competition that can be good, but there has to be realistic boundaries and expectations that come with it.”