Opinion: Students are unhealthily affected by school pressures

Oftentimes, I’ll find myself doom scrolling any number of social media apps when the algorithm shows me something that hits me where it hurts and sends me into bouts of anxiety — posts about college.

As attention grabbing as “A thread of three tricks to get into Harvard!” and as nerve-wracking as “The reason this valedictorian with perfect AP, SAT, and ACT scores didn’t get into any top schools…”, these posts are obviously designed to take advantage of anxieties about the future, yet I never fail to fall for them.

Please, tell me how people who have infinitely better stats than me, started three clubs, and are the captains of their debate team won’t get into a good school, but I will if I buy your tutoring package.

I’m not alone. These posts have thousands, sometimes millions of interactions. All around the country, students drive themselves to the brink of insanity in order to get that “it factor” that colleges want so they can secure a comfortable future. In Texas, and especially here in Southlake, it’s especially noticeable.

It’s not the fault of these posts. I don’t like them because of the way they were created to capitalize off of these pressures, but they were also created as a response to the real problems — ranking systems and unhealthy competition.

It’s not exactly ideal for teenagers who need a healthy balance between academics, a social life, and personal time.

Students’ attempts to stand out to colleges lead to them taking an immense course load. There are sophomores who are taking five or six APs by getting credits over the summer, not to mention the juniors who are taking seven to all AP classes.

Taking these classes only exponentially increases these pressures. Not only are AP classes difficult, with the new exemption policy, students will have up to 16 exams in their second semester alone.

It’s not exactly ideal for teenagers who need a healthy balance between academics, a social life, and personal time. Although it’s never explicitly said, it starts to feel like the student body starts to split into factions of people who prioritize one or two of these things. It feels like some people are able to party on weekdays and walk the halls without that weight on their shoulders. However, in place of it, they carry the stigma of not being a “smart” kid. On the flip side, the students who are taking many (arguably, way too many) advanced and AP classes might be able to have a strong transcript, but they don’t get to experience the glamorous, Euphoria-esque high school experience. Being able to have all three has started to feel impossible.

All of these factors absolutely ravage students’ mental health and all relate back to the unfair amount of pressures that are placed on literal children. It would be great if the state decided to abolish the ranking system, schools did everything they could to nurture students’ passions, and if top universities somehow decreased their massive amounts of competition. Students know they won’t, though, so we can’t take the pressure off of ourselves.