Competitive environment fuels negativity
By Haley Xue, Staff Reporter
It’s time to get that test back and suddenly you feel anxious and jittery. A surge of doubt clouds your mind, leaving the echoes of a single thought: “What did I get
Finding out your score could potentially make or break your day. As soon as that paper touches your desk, the students around you shoot covert glances, trying to get a peek at your grade. The question comes up soon enough—“Whad’ya get?”
Conestoga is currently ranked fifth among high schools in Pennsylvania and has more National Merit Semifinalists than any school in the state—clearly, academic reputation matters. However, with such a strong status, Conestoga students are overly competitive–behavior which leads to superfluous amounts of stress and pressure.
Consider, for instance, the drive to pack our schedules with as many advanced placement courses as possible. Students feel that if they don’t take AP classes, they “won’t get in anywhere.” Students can assuage personal insecurities with the satisfying knowledge of having a more challenging course load.
What some students don’t realize is that taking an excess of AP courses does not mean they will receive good grades in those classes. A bad performance in an AP class can have an unintended, damaging effect when in the admissions process. According to the Princeton Review, “An AP class signals to admissions officers that you’re ready for college-level work. If you bomb the class, you’ll send the opposite message.”
AP courses should serve as an enjoyable challenge, not as a way of showing off the ability to handle more stress than others. An overload of AP classes can cause excessive stress and pressure because the courses are by nature, highly demanding.
Competition isn’t only limited to class levels; it’s a prevailing issue, widespread throughout the school. When a teacher hands back a test, it’s not surprising to hear the phrase, “I’ll tell you my grade if you tell me yours.”
Inquiring about other grades allows students to guage where they stand among their peers. A better grade than someone else gives a sense of self-satisfaction or intellectual superiority—a feeling coined as the German word “schadenfreude.”
Healthy competition can help students achieve their best but it shouldn’t be taken too far. Excessive competition can be detrimental and result in discouragement and frustration, emotions that are psychologically unhealthy and undermine the purpose of learning.
A poor performance on a test can be extremely disheartening and at times frustrating. Feelings like these negatively impact a student’s motivation and drive to work harder, thereby making it increasingly difficult for them to learn at full potential. Everyone has some kind of limit on their ability—the point where they have exhausted all of their potential and a perfect score is not possible. Competition often brings students to push themselves over this limit, leaving them struggling to cope with additional, and perhaps, unnecessary pressure.
So before you stress over the test lying on your desk, remember: one failing grade doesn’t mean the Earth has suddenly stopped turning. If your friend got a better score, good for them. If you studied, put in effort and tried your best, there’s absolutely nothing to regret.
Haley Xue can be reached at hxue@.stoganews.com
This article originally appeared on p. 10 of the Oct. 19, 2010 issue of The Spoke.