End relentless student pressures


When graded assessments are handed back, many students begin to compare results. Constantly comparing and asking other classmates questions about their grades creates a toxic and high-pressure environment. Graphic by Carly Erlich

When I was in grade school, I remember the excitement I felt going to school every day. I drew with my friends, planned playdates and socialized on the playground. After I got home, I immediately told my parents all about my adventurous day, grabbed some snacks and ran to the TV to turn on “Good Luck Charlie.”

However, once I got older, the uplifting grade school environment was exchanged for a more rigorous and fast-paced one. 

On days when tests are returned, I anticipate my score, only to hear students asking each other about their results. While listening to my classmates share their test scores, I can’t help but compare myself to my peers, making me feel discouraged, incompetent and undeserving to be in the class.

The high school atmosphere is filled with competition and comparison, creating a toxic, high-pressure environment. I constantly hear students asking their peers what scores they got on tests, what their grades are in a class or what their ACT and SAT scores are. Finding out how people are doing in a class seems to be a recurrent question, which often puts others down and compels students to compete with each other. 

The pressure to get certain grades may stem beyond students and instead begin with what they’re taught at home. Some parents emphasize the importance of their child’s grades by frequently checking PowerSchool, repeatedly discussing grades or telling their child to study more. Parents can also feed into grade and course comparisons by bragging about their child’s academic achievements to others. 

There is a general standard for students in the community to attend certain colleges and obtain certain grades. Parents may have high expectations for their child’s grades and courses because some believe success is measured by the college their child eventually attends. Students who feel pressured to get good grades and take high-level classes without parental influence may still compete with their peers to get into a “good” college. Even though students and parents may think these standards will help them be successful, these expectations can also negatively impact students. 

I often find myself awake at 2 a.m. finishing schoolwork because I tell myself that one assignment will greatly impact my grade. I dreadfully walk into class later that morning, exhausted from the work I stayed up to complete.   

Being a high school student can come with hard and rigorous courses, but the high-pressure environment is worsened through comparisons and fixations over grades. Parents and students need to limit checking PowerSchool and stop excessive conversations about grades. Comparing grades is not productive to the school learning environment. It’s time to eliminate making comparisons to one another. 

So please, stop letting grades consume and define a student’s worth. Let’s end the relentless pressures that students endure.