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Academic Validation Increases Competition in the Classroom

Junior+Mariah+Hanlon+records+results+of+a+lab+in+AP+Biology.+Studies+show+students+continually+experience+the+pressure+of+academics+when+considering+long-term+success.+
Photo by Melisa Rodriguez
Junior Mariah Hanlon records results of a lab in AP Biology. Studies show students continually experience the pressure of academics when considering long-term success.

To some students, high school can serve as a second home: a place filled with friends, laughter, and love. However, to other students, school is a warzone. A place that harbors stress, exams, and competition for reaching the top ranks. 

Over 75% of high school students report feeling stressed by academic work, many of them exhausted by the need for academic validation, a psychological pressure that stems from students “giving grades a lot of power over their sense of success.” 

Ranking in the top 10 students of her class, senior Emmaline Marion believes students should view academic validation in a positive light; instead of working for the validation, students should work to better themselves for academics beyond high school.

Finding achievement in academics is always something that I pursued throughout my high school career, that hasn’t necessarily stemmed from the ‘validation’ piece of it, instead I feel proud of just knowing I have done my best.

— Emmaline Marion, 12

“Finding achievement in academics is always something that I pursued throughout my high school career, that hasn’t necessarily stemmed from the ‘validation’ piece of it, instead I feel proud of just knowing I have done my best,” Marion said. “Being surrounded by educators in my family has always encouraged me to put 100% into what I do because I know it will end up better for me in the future. I’m not looking for that validation, I’m more so looking for that preparation as I go to that next phase of my life whether that be in college or further on to a career.”

Counselor Jennifer Roberts guides all types of students through their educational journey. As someone who oversees both high and low-achieving students, Roberts acknowledges the difference in attitudes and determination in succeeding through their academics. 

“On a daily basis, I see students who have a pretty clear direction of what they want to do after high school. Whether that’s college, a trade school, or training for what career they are interested in,” Roberts said. “There are students who are quite aimless and they don’t know what they want to do. For those students, [my role is] helping them to set goals and dream so they can figure out what they might want to do.”

Junior Purity Perkins notices the competitive atmosphere of students within her class. As someone who recognizes the importance of mental health, Perkins believes high-ranking students often disregard their state of well-being. 

“I honestly believe the top 50 ranking students are extremely competitive; this can lead to detrimental effects for their mental and physical health,” Perkins said. “I have seen these students get less than three hours of sleep per night and seem exhausted by the time they are in class. Students who thrive off academic validation tend to make their main focus on their rank and GPA, which often leads to them forgetting to take care of themselves.” 

Students who thrive off academic validation tend to make their main focus on their rank and GPA, which often leads to them forgetting to take care of themselves.

— Purity Perkins, 11

Wanting to study Psychology in college, Perkins hopes students recognize the importance of balancing academics with satisfying their mental needs to achieve an overall better quality-of-life. 

“We all have our own motivations that we work hard for, which causes us to neglect our own needs,” Perkins said. “As juniors, we are all very stressed. I work hard for my grades, but overtime, I learned how to take a break. When I’m stressed, I make sure to set reminders on my phone to do something I enjoy, like watching a show or taking a nap. I believe that if everyone sets aside some time for self-care, their mental health would significantly improve for the remaining years of school left.”

High-ranking colleges value much more than grades, they value how a student presents themselves in everyday life. Planning to further her academics and pursue higher education in the future, Marion advises students to understand that “grades” exist as only a small part of one’s life. 

“There are times when I feel completely stressed, overwhelmed; like there’s no way I can possibly get where I need to be and nothing is going to work out, but I think that everyone should know that nobody really knows what they are doing,” Marion said. “Everyone is just kinda figuring out as they go; there is no right or wrong. Just knowing that eventually, you’re going to be okay on your path has allowed me to relax during my senior year. Try to do your best, don’t try to be perfect because then you will just end up struggling in the future.”

About the Contributors
Eva Gurung
Eva Gurung, Features Editor
graph: (sqrt(cos(x))*cos(500*x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.4)*(3-x*x)^0.1
Melisa Rodriguez
Melisa Rodriguez, Staff Photographer
I love my dog, and if you need something done just ask me! Fun fact: my name is written with one s :)
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