THE PRESSURES OF HIGH SCHOOL
WC High Schoolers Share Candid Thoughts in Recent Survey
By Laura Fitzpatrick, Staff Writer
What do you wish parents knew about the pressures of high school, academic achievement and the college admissions process?
This was one of nine questions asked of WC’s students in grades nine to 12 in an informal, anonymous survey conducted recently. All nine of these survey questions were inspired by one of the central tenets of Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard’s book Late Bloomers. Of the 204 student responses to this particular question, many were thoughtful and raw. The reality is that WC students are not immune to the pressure of our culture or experiencing anxiety.
As a school community, we want to identify and address these issues in a distinctly Christian way and engage these topics deeply in an effort to devise creative solutions. Some steps have been taken to try to eliminate some of the pressures of early achievement, and we look forward to a fuller conversation initiated by Karlgaard’s visit to our campus on February 13.
Karlgaard suggests that young people are struggling so much because of our culture’s obsession with early achievement. He observes that high school students today are pressured to take the hardest classes, get the highest grades, get into the best colleges and start a successful career straightaway. College is touted as the only way to have a successful life, and college admissions are boiled down to a high GPA and high standardized test scores. Thus, students feel pressure to achieve at the top level.
In reading his book, I grew curious as to how much this cultural obsession impacts students at Worthington Christian School. So I sent out a few questions to our current high schoolers. The short answer is, “Yes, WC students are impacted by this cultural obsession with early achievement.” Here’s a closer look…
One survey question asked students how often their pursuit of academic achievement causes them anxiety. Of the 216 respondents to this question, 31% said that they always feel anxiety over their academic performance. Another 53% reported that they sometimes or often feel anxiety in pursuit of good grades, test scores, and college admissions. And when asked how often they feel pressure to get high grades and test scores, an overwhelming 83% of students responded that they often or always feel that pressure. One student wrote, “A lot of the time I wake up and go to sleep feeling anxious.” Another student wrote, “There is pressure on every side and in every aspect. Social, academic, even spiritual and personal.”
Karlgaard suggests that today’s teens are learning, achieving and competing in a world vastly different than the one in which their parents grew up. WC teens seem to agree, with nearly 65% of survey respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that “Parents nowadays do not understand how competitive high school and college are compared to when they were in high school.” So, what did WC students say they wish their parents knew? Here are a few of those responses:
“The stress of school and outside activities plus being a full-time son/daughter is REALLY hard.”
“I wish they knew that I’m doing my best. I want to be told, ‘You did well.’”
“There are times I would rather just fail or get an ‘F’ than go through the stress of it all.”
What is fascinating to me in reading through these stats and responses is not how many students feel pressure or experience anxiety but the source of that pressure and anxiety. As one ninth-grade student wrote, “Sometimes it’s hard to detect from where it [the pressure] comes. Whether this pressure is put on me by myself, coaches, my parents, classmates or teachers, it’s always present.” Many students wrote that they put pressure on themselves. One student summed up this common sentiment, “You [parents] don’t have to put pressure on us in order for us to feel pressured.”
While WC students do feel the pressure of our culture and experience some anxiety, we as a school community strive to respond in a distinctly Christian way. As faculty, staff and families that love Christ and desire to raise children up in the wisdom of the LORD, this informs and shapes our approach to everything, including dealing with anxiety, developing future plans, and becoming the individuals God has created us to be. WC’s school counselor, Nancy Secrest, provides resources and guidance for students to establish and maintain emotional and mental health. (Make sure to check out her article “Your Teen and Stress.”) Tim Kraynak, Assistant Principal and College Counselor, works with families as they navigate the college admissions process, providing practical expertise in this arena.
The fundamental principle of Late Bloomers is that people grow and bloom at different rates, in different seasons and in unique ways. As a college-preparatory, Christ-centered school, WC seeks to provide a rigorous curriculum that equips students for higher education, and at the same time helps students discover their unique calling and the path that God lays out for their lives.
In bringing Karlgaard to WC on February 13, we hope that his timely and relevant message will spark conversation within our school community. We want you to join this conversation. Please make plans to attend “An Evening with Rich Karlgaard” at 7:00 p.m. in the AC Auditorium on February 13.