The harmful effects of academic pressure on high school students


STUDENTS EXPERIENCE  immense amounts of stress this school year. Sofia Sipelis

Sofia Sipelis | Opinion Editor

With dark circles under the students’ eyes, heavy sighs fill the air at the news of yet another essay. All students are struggling to find balance amidst their complex lives, but no one is facing these challenges more than one group: high school juniors. 

Enter freshman year. Students are told to enjoy school while they can before junior year comes and debilitates their well-being. Teachers can be heard warning students to prepare themselves for junior year as it is “exponentially harder than years past.” While other grades simply complete their classwork and move on with their lives, juniors can be found tearing their hair out in stress, writing on a tear-dampened math worksheet at 11:00 pm, when they should be sleeping in order to rejuvenate themselves for the monotonous yet challenging day that lies ahead. 

“I feel like I can never escape the piles of homework I’m assigned on the daily,” junior Sam Stark said. “It feels like I’m always rushing to get an assignment done just to be thrown another worksheet, essay, or test.”

HOMEWORK LEVELS seem overwhelming. Sofia Sipelis

Students have always struggled in their third year of high school as college applications creep around the corner, however, in a post-COVID learning environment, the difficulties are substantially increased. After two years of learning from a Zoom screen within the confines of their own homes and taking lenient tests in a virtual environment, students were unprepared for the major switch to normal school. Now, the mental health of teens at San Clemente High School has been pushed to the cusp of chaos. Perfectionism seems pervasive, and as colleges become increasingly competitive, the fear of not getting an ‘A’ in every class is becoming a genuine concern to many students. 

The accumulation of several tests a week, mountains of homework, sports, extracurriculars, jobs, standardized tests, a pandemic, and household chores is heralding in a perfect storm of stress amongst an already vulnerable population. According to a statistic from UC Davis, teenage suicide has increased by 60% for people aged 10 to 24 since 2018. Teenagers inherently have to deal with an enormous amount of anxiety, so why apply so much pressure to students who may already be near their breaking point? 

To many, it feels as though their self-worth is derived from their grades. “[It feels like] our identity is found through grades, and we feel less than when we don’t receive a perfect grade,” junior Maddie Kerrigan said. “We have to wonder whether or not we are enough every time we check Canvas.”

With the implementation of Canvas, school never leaves the minds of anxious students. School has become invasive and acts as a looming shadow, creeping behind students’ backs when they are desperately in need of downtime. In the past, assignments used to be due in class the following morning; now we see assignments due at 11:59 pm on a Friday.

However, despite many of these problems being intensified from a lack of support, a majority of the pressure is systemic. This problem is seen nationwide. As colleges become more competitive, the demand for them increases, and so does their allure. Given that American culture is intrinsically competitive, this stress formed by college application competition conditions us for the working world where even stable adults struggle with their work-life balance. 

Stress levels as high as the ones high schoolers are experiencing can lead to harmful health conditions later on in life such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. Though most students can agree on the inherent importance of education, our lives shouldn’t be consumed by work, stress, and school.

Despite the pressure teenagers feel from society, it is imperative that we begin to find joy in the beauties of life such as the outdoors, time with friends, and relaxation. School is important, but not as important as mental health. Take time to go outside, go to bed early, and enjoy your teenage years before they slip away.

Please contact the Counselor’s Corner to find more information about healthy ways to manage your mental health.

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