The Pressure of Competition
Over the past year, parents of the wealthy and privileged have been exposed for cheating the college admissions system. These individuals have personified the levels of desperation to which some parents descend in order to get their child into their school of choice.
Stresses of college admissions and even competition among high school students contribute to the consistent 25 percent (1 in 4) CDC-recorded mental health cases each year in the U.S. Recognizing the mental health vulnerability of competitiveness and being prepared for what college truly expects from the applicant is the best way to get through high school and into your college of choice.
Young adults must learn that self-care is an important part of maintaining mental health and stress. Anna Hope Emerson, a 20 year-old sophomore at Yale, was compelled to write a column after a week of hospitalization due to mental health issues. “If you take away anything from my experience, let it be this: Don’t put off taking care of yourself. Reaching out for help when you need it doesn’t make you weak; it makes you brave.”¹
Sometimes self-care is taking a break when overwhelmed, but students also need to know how to replace the behaviors that are causing them stress. Social media, depression and anxiety are linked contributors to the stress of high school
and college competition. The self-imposed pressure to earn “likes” on pictures and posts is a reflection of who they are as a person. Too many youths believe that more likes equate to success.
Fortunately, a new awareness has emerged which encourages students to hold the phone, disconnect from social media and be more aware of “screen time” statistics. But even awareness of stress can affect stressors that complicate the life of the high schooler and early college student.
How can stressed-out high school students reduce stress? Preparation is key. By learning what’s expected of them in high school and sticking to the plan. There are resources to help guide students through each year of high school. American College Test (ACT) offers a year-to-year guide for high school students available at Act.org.² The guide narrates how students should plan each year in order to be successful in high school – and prepared for college.
Planning should result in fair eligibility for college, not cheating. Students must employ a personal drive to honestly prepare for college. If they are used to dishonesty, they learn how to be dishonest. If they learn how to struggle to learn content, they learn how to learn.
Harvard University’s Turning the Tide II: How Parents and High Schools Can Cultivate Ethical Character and Reduce Stress³ is a good reference for students, parents and schools. The seven guideposts listed within the report serve as an ethical barometer to follow to ensure that successes are earned honestly. Competition can sometimes hurt, but it can feel so good in the end.
Simon Moore is an EMT and lead teacher of Coachella Valley High School Health Academy. Jodie Capper is an RN and health academy teacher at CVHS.
References: 1) https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2018/04/20/the-happy-school/; 2) https://www.act.org/content/act/en/students-and-parents.html; 3) https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/reports/turning-the-tide-2-parents-high-schools-college-admissions)