The evolving nature of stress

Senior Juniper Ezanno takes notes in class. —Mackenzie Condon

By Mackenzie Condon

Stress can be a constant presence in the lives of both high school and college students. In hopes of having a perfect résumé, students often find themselves taking a rigorous academic workload along with participating in extracurriculars and holding a job, all while maintaining an involved role in their community. This can create problems with time management, especially when trying to incorporate time to relax. These stressors come from all aspects of adolescent life, and can start earlier than the last years of high school, when students may be applying to college.

Last year’s student body president, Samantha Hargy, who now attends George Washington University, said, “The pressure of getting into a good college starts to hit pretty early on, and that was my main worry in school. I needed to get good grades so I could go to a good school. The most stressful part about high school is that you’re always thinking about getting into college, and the most stressful part of college is that you finally realize you’re on your own and if you mess up or don’t do well in a class, it has the potential to sidetrack your career plans.” The stressors that she mentions are real, and can inhabit the minds of motivated students during their years of education.

Last year’s regional high school salutatorian, Olivia Jacobs, who attends Hamilton College, said, “I often felt overwhelmed in my freshman and sophomore years because of a heavy workload with challenging classes, and participation in extracurriculars. My junior and senior years, I had a change of mindset. I realized how caught up I had been in my grades and achieving academic perfection. I associated good grades with my self-worth, which was really destructive.”

Current junior Nic Andre said, “I think stress to some extent is a main motivator of many kids. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Students aren’t always doing assignments because they enjoy the material, but more because of the haunting adverse effects not doing their work and not achieving high marks could have on their future. The current dynamic of education is more of testing the student’s ability to memorize and meet the standards of the curriculum these days, and that can breed the attitude of ‘I have to do this even though I don’t enjoy it’ that causes motivated students to find themselves stressed.”

Olivia also commented on the value of learning material that is truly interesting to the individual — a type of learning that college education is built around. She said, “I am not stressed in college like I was in high school. I feel confident because I know that whatever grade I get, I have put in my best effort. It helps that I’m fascinated by the material we are assigned to read and write about. It doesn’t feel like work.”

Junior Lily Pigott commented on the idea of the importance of education having a point: “Education sculpts us into people ready to take on our future with diligence and confidence. The stress comes when the student finds themselves cramming material that they don’t have an interest in, and they lack a true understanding of the whys or the hows, and only know the memorized facts,” she said. Lily is a three-season athlete, and also spoke about the stress that comes with her school involvement being more than just her academics.

She said, “I do not think I could get through the rigors of school without the daily practices that allow me a release from all the tension of what’s expected of me in school. Nonetheless, sports take up a large chunk of time, and my freshman year I found myself having to learn to start assignments early and become proactive about making up things missed in class due to sporting events. Playing a sport in college is in the back of many high school athletes’ minds. It gives you a built-in family to rely on and a structure to your day that yields many benefits. However, stress in high school — due to the lack of time because of sport involvement — would still have a presence in college, for better or worse.”

Nic also said, “It is important to remember that there are many components of adolescent life that have to be alloted time. When pressure is coming at you from all directions, it is the relationships you build with your teachers, and have with your families, friends, and teammates, that keep you grounded and allow you to come out on top.”