Is The Pressure to Achieve Good Grades in High School Worth the Stress

Young students today are often pressured to ‘build their resumes’ before they even step into the brick and mortar building that offers their last level of public education. Parents today put a lot of effort and planning into helping their children achieve more than just good grades, in an effort to secure their placement in what is considered an ‘upstanding’ college. The SAT’s which have long been the barometer of college acceptance, are now being offered to 8th graders in the form of PSAT’s in the hopes that it will better prepare them for fitting in to the college of their dreams. And added on to the many teen battles arising from simple hormones and grade performance are tons of extra curricular activities, which can be added to a college application – in the hopes that the child will become a top pick for the college of their choice.

Through the looking glass of experience, you have to wonder if the pressure to achieve good grades in high school is really worth the stress it places on students?

An excerpt from The Mentor, An Academic Advising Journal – seems to think the pressure on high school students today IS too high. In fact, they say, “My personal opinion is that we often put too much pressure on high school students to know more and do more. It’s okay to be a high school student when one is in high school and okay to attend to high school academic and social life. High school students don’t need to know details about college beyond admission requirements for the colleges to which they will apply.”

Perhaps one of the most important facts made by the preparatory book is that “Life is (all about) developmental stages—people learn what they need to know when the time is right for them.”

In other words, high school students are at a stage in development where they should be able to act, behave, and LEARN the lessons of high school. If they learn ahead, and miss the opportunities posed by making mistakes and figuring out the difference between behavior styles, kids will be more apt to make the same mistakes once they get to college. Then suddenly, the cost of their mis-behavior is not just consequential, but financial as well. And additionally, the excess pressure to ‘get into college’ can burn young adults out more quickly and even make them reconsider their desires to attend college at all.

This year, in 2011, around 19.7 million students were set to start or continue college educations. The number of students seeking post high school education has been steadily rising in the United States. In 2000, only 4.4 million students were enrolled in college. While these numbers seem high, the truth is that only around 57% of all graduating seniors attend college. Two years after graduation, only around half of those will still be enrolled in college. In fact, today’s college student is often an adult in the 24 – 38 year age group, who has life experience and more career development experience that brings them back to the desire for education. And for these older, more mature students – good grades are particularly the norm. As for first the younger population, most maintain a B average and 34%, maintain a C average academically.

And in a poll of US high school students conducted by USA Today, around 88% said that they wanted to go to college, yet felt an ‘extreme’ amount of pressure to get good grades in high school. This extreme pressure has been hinted to be a participating factor in depression among teens, suicide, and other emotional problems.

When you look to countries such as China and Japan, which have coveted educational systems that seem to create talented personnel in all spectrums of humanity– it is interesting that only 50% of all students there actually attend college. Perhaps what is most telling is that students are developed at a young age based on their talents. Much of their schooling and education in elementary and high school education is based on helping them perfect their personal talents, many of which do not require educational outlets like universities. For instance, students with a knack for art, would be given instruction and detailed employment information (as well as opportunities) in that venue. Even with 50% of all Asian children attending college (often at the age of 14), many of those colleges would be considered vocational schools here in the United States.

It is only normal for parents to want their children to do well. However, in today’s flailing economy, even those with college degrees are not able to find suitable work, and college by no means seems to indicate success later in life. Plus, the pressure on students to get good grades for the sheer sake of college, seems to be a counter intuitive method to enable children to work and study in areas that they are both passionate in and capable of doing well. By applying all the pressure in high school and putting all efforts into college, young adults are often set up to fail, and disappoint their parents.

Parents should advise and guide their children. It is vitally important to keep all doors open for kids, who in truth have no real idea what they want to do when they ‘grow up,’ and graduate. Even though youth are often unable to see around corners and cannot be counted on to understand what they ‘need’ for their futures, parents do need to utilize their talents, passion and drive as a barometer for helping them make choices. College is absolutely beneficial, but it should not be the sole focus during high school. If the pressure to achieve, do more, and become more at a young age is too great, young adults can simply crack from the pressure.

It is also important to consider that kids can update their colleges, enroll a year after a high school, and even change their course of education mid way through a year. Starting small, and allowing your teen to experience the life stages as they are ‘supposed’ to occur, will in fact help them to become more successful and self-confident.



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