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WC Alumni Reflect on the Stress of High School

This is a question I posed to a few recent WC grads, all now in their first or second year of college. After having read the candid thoughts on the stress of current high school students, I wondered how college students from similar backgrounds now think about their own high school experience. Unsurprisingly, these new WC alumni echoed similar sentiments about the pressures of high school, but they have surprising words of wisdom for students still in the throes of high school GPA, standardized test scores, and college admissions.

Like current high schoolers, these young alumni recall feeling pressure in high school and remember feeling a degree of anxiety over the pursuit of academic achievement and college admissions. They shared feeling that pressure from classmates, teachers, peers, and parents, but the majority say they pressured themselves to achieve. 

One alum, now a sophomore business marketing major at The Ohio State University, explained, “My junior year was definitely the worst in terms of that [stress], but after reflecting I think that’s because I never gave the Lord control over the things in my life. Once I realized that he wasn’t calling me to the standards I was holding myself to, I felt freedom from anxiety and stress.” 

A few of these alumni described their stress level in high school as moderate, but most explained that when they did feel stress, it was mild. Interestingly, one alum said that while their stress in high school was not severe, it was more than she experiences now as a freshman in college.

Now that they have a year or two of experience in college and a different perspective on their high school years, what do they wish they knew in high school that they know now? Their responses reflect experiential knowledge and wisdom:

“I wish I knew that getting above a 4.0 (GPA) doesn’t get you extra scholarship money or if it does it isn’t much, so don’t stress yourself out to the point of exhaustion.”

“…Take a deep breath. The Lord is in control…”

“Test scores like the ACT/SAT really only have a lot to do with academic financial aid and acceptance, but it doesn’t define you. These tests are not designed for everyone to succeed.”

“No one will ever look at your grades after graduation, and grades never define you!”

It seems that a year or two removed from the stress of high school has given these alumni enough perspective to recognize how unnecessary and unfruitful some of those pressures were and are. When asked what advice they would give students currently in the throes of high school, these college students shared the following:

“There is a lot more to life than grades, so keep your life balanced.”

“Work hard and do your best to score well and get good grades, but in the long run no one cares or remembers what your high school GPA was. The world is so much bigger, and God will place you at the college/university He has planned for you. There is no need to overly stress about it.”

“Grades are important and so are ACT scores, but being a well-rounded person is better…be involved.”

“This doesn’t define you!!! Jesus Christ is your identity. All your grades, scores, etc. ultimately have no eternal reflection of who you are.”

There are certain tensions that exist in being a school that seeks to develop the mind of Christ in students: encouraging students toward academic excellence in a rigorous curriculum and simultaneously understanding that personal worth and identity are found only in Christ, not accomplishment; being a college-preparatory institution and walking alongside students to discover their true calling, which is not synonymous with college or career. Add to these tensions the age-old angst of adolescence, and stress is bound to crop up. 

Yet how we equip students to recognize and address it, and the academic, emotional, spiritual and relational environment we create, is distinctively Christian. The worldview that we present–the story that we are all a part of, God’s story–provides a firm foundation for us that neither excludes nor is driven by rigor, achievement, and success. 

This is an on-going conversation for the WC community, and we want everyone to be involved. Head of School Troy McIntosh will share the AC auditorium stage with Forbes publisher and “Late Bloomers” author Rich Karlgaard on February 13 as a continuation of this conversation. After a brief presentation from Karlgaard, they will take questions from audience members, truly creating dialogue. Please join this conversation…there are just two weeks left to purchase tickets.


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