Students under pressure


Laura Doughton, Editor-in-Chief

In the era of instant television and streaming, most teenagers have seen “High School Musical”. As a six year old watching the movie with my older siblings, I remember having great expectations for high school.    

In the movie, Troy, Gabriella and their friends appear to spend a lot of time at school, but not a lot of time in class. They don’t carry around backpacks weighted down with textbooks and they take leisurely strolls down the halls on the way to class. 

This image of the average post high school life depicted in “High School Musical”  is far from the average experience. Often, high school is associated with the stress of college and moving into the next stage of life. 

It is no secret that high school is an important time that impacts lives for years to come, but each year presents its own unique challenges that students must face.

From finding new friends freshman year, to figuring out plans for the future as a senior, students are tasked with managing these stressors on top of school work. For students who are often just trying to make it through the week, the added stress that current high schoolers face is often overwhelming. 

High school has turned into a competition. Competition to get the best grades, to have the most followers,  to be in the most clubs, to have the newest gadgets,  to be on the best athletic team, to take the hardest classes.

It is increasingly clear that the current high school experience is not what is shown in movies and TV shows. The kids who grew up watching “High School Musical” are now the kids who are in a constant state of stress and sleep deprivation. The world of “High School Musical”, where it is unusual for Troy to both play a sport and be involved in the arts, is now how the current system works. 

In order to seem ‘well rounded’ students are supposed to participate in everything, and preferably excel at everything they do. This adds more to their already increasing workload.

In order to deal with the increasing workload, students are sacrificing sleep, social activities and free time. Doctors recommend that high school aged students get nine and a half hours of sleep. In a poll done at Reynolds, student responses found that the average amount of sleep is between six and seven hours. 

One possible reason for this lack of sleep is that students are faced with an increasing workload that requires more time out of school to complete. In a world where numbers are used to judge the value of a student, students are forced to take a harder workload to try and stand out. 

For college bound students, this stress can be even more prevalent. It is not uncommon for colleges and employers to compare students through their grades, as well as standardized test scores. This encourages students to place added values on these numbers and causes them to believe that they must do better than others to achieve their goals. 

This mindset creates a system where students are forced to compete against their peers. As more students strive to take higher level classes, the standard is continually raised, thus creating a never ending cycle. Students constantly fight to increase their GPA and class rank in an effort to rise above their peers. 

I constantly find myself in this mindset. The discussion of how many APs my friends are taking and what their class rank is is a conversation I find myself in more often than I would like to. Competition for college admission is increasingly more difficult and I am stuck in a mindset between wanting my friends to succeed and wanting myself to succeed as well. Each person who has a higher GPA than me can be viewed as a roadblock on my way to college.

The pressure to always be better and this competitive environment creates an unnecessary amount of stress on students. This stress can manifest itself in many ways, often contributing to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

Students go to school for a minimum of 35 hours a week, not including extracurriculars or time spent on homework. In a society that runs on 40 hour work weeks, this is a daunting task for most students to face. The added pressures of extracurriculars and homework turn this 35 hour week into one that well exceeds 40 hours. 

It is easy to look at these numbers and become overwhelmed. After a long day of school, the last thing I want to do is more school work, especially when I know I will have to do the same thing the next day. Many students find themselves in this mindset and they deal with it through procrastination. 

This procrastination can present itself in many ways. For some, they take naps, others find themselves scrolling through social media or watching Netflix. What is planned to be a 30 minute break can quickly turn into two hours or more. Suddenly students have much less time than they planned and the cycle of stress continues. 

The general consensus is clear, the amount of stress students are under is unnatural and unnecessary. Students should be able to enjoy their teenage years. Not everything needs to be a competition and students do not need to be under extreme stress to be better than their peers. 

However, in the movies, students come home from school and never appear to spend time doing homework. They are able to hang out with friends and family and spend time doing things they enjoy. It is a time for the character to find themselves, and discover more about the world around them. For us, after school is a time to build our resumes. 

This image of high school is what most people grow up with. They expect to be able to enjoy their four years. When I started high school, I did not expect to be spending late nights pouring over my never ending pile of homework. I never would have expected to find myself on a dark bus, after a soccer game, with my laptop open, writing a story about the stress high schoolers suffer from.  

I expected high school to be a time of self discovery, a time that I could use to discover myself and my passions. I want to be able to spend time on the weekends with my friends, instead of counting down the minimal free time I have before I have to start my homework. 

Maybe the movies have it right. High school is a time for students to find themselves. They should be able to experience life without the added stress. In many ways, the social experiences of high school are just as important as the academic ones. High schoolers of the modern era are deprived of these experiences because they are forced to focus all their efforts on academic pursuits.