Are High School Students under too much pressure?

Maren Naegele, features editor

High school. The final stretch before moving away from home and obtaining some degree of freedom and independence. For most high schoolers, the high school years are a back and forth between the best of times and the worst of times. The best of times are those spent making memories with friends who provide unconditional support, laughter, and love. The worst of times are those long nights spent crying and stressing over homework, studying, and how to get into college.

The pressure of being a high school student is an enormous weight that is placed on our shoulders the minute we enter our freshman year. Everyone knows that once you start high school, good grades and extracurricular activities become more serious than ever. Only now, in our high school years, will colleges “see” what type of students we are. High school no longer means discovery, but rather what classes or activities will boost our profile and set us apart from other students.

As a junior in high school, my life is consumed by three things: school, clubs and sports, and preparing for college. Having to juggle school and extracurricular activities is definitely a struggle, and often my social life lacks the attention that it deserves. Whatever happened to balance?

Like most high school students, I come home from school each night with roughly 5+ hours of homework on top of club meetings, athletics, family dinners, showers, and sometimes babysitting. I rarely ever go to bed before 11, and it’s a rare treat to listen to music or even catch up on a TV show. Going to bed so late every night catches up with me, and for the most part, I’m always sleep deprived. Why? Well, mainly because the pressure of maintaining good grades and participating in activities is way more important than sleep. Whatever it takes to get into a good college, right?

Any notion of having a social life comes last on the priority list, and sometimes we suffer the most because of this imbalance. Like many other students, I get energy and motivation from my peers, especially my friends. Hanging out and having fun keeps me from literally going crazy. When I don’t have the time to incorporate any aspect of a social life, I often get depressed and sometimes this negatively impacts my schoolwork.

Junior year is commonly known as the hardest year of high school. Academically classes are equally as challenging as prior years, but the pressure of college is at an all-time high. On the first day of school, you are hit with the greatest weight of all: having to decide whether or not you want to take the SAT, ACT or best of all, BOTH! And then the rest of our junior year is spent studying not only for regular classes, but also for the standardized test of our parents’ choosing…I mean OUR choosing. Additionally, we have to start to consider which colleges we might want to apply to and then which colleges we actually have a reasonable chance of getting into. This new, ever-present pressure literally never leaves our brain.

Although high school is amazing in so many ways, and memories are definitely made, most of my nights are spent stressing over the unrealistic pressures and expectations that not only society has placed on our shoulders, but also that my family has placed on me. What many older people fail to realize is that times have changed, and the competition to get into “good colleges” is harder than ever today. We are not only competing with hundreds of students in our class, but also millions of students all around our country and the world.

For me, I am constantly reminded of the fact that my grandparents went to schools like UC Berkeley and Stanford, but what seems forgotten is that it was easier to get into these “good colleges” back then compared to now because of the increase in applicants. For me, no matter how much pressure is put on me to go to a “good college” or to not “disappoint,” I have to remember that it’s up to me, and it’s my decision. And, I know I’m not alone when I say the pressure from family members to go to college, is honestly the most stressful feeling in the entire world.

At times, I get caught up in the trap that I have to go to a similar “good college” and that if I don’t, then I will “disappoint.” But again, during these times what I fail to realize is that I’ll end up at a college that I am meant to be at. No matter where my parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles have done to college, where I go will not define me as a person, but rather help me discover my passions. The pressure of high school is a heavy weight and sometimes it gets the best of us, but we are all in it together.