The Struggle For Academic Perfection

12/01/2011 10:16 am ET | Updated Jan 31, 2012

A little academic competition among high school students can always be a healthy thing, driving students to outperform one another and bringing up their academic standings. However, from what I can see in the most populated city in America, students seem to be taking it to a new level.

In the private schools of New York City, school has been in session for just about a month. Feeling pressure, students don't wait a second to relax or get the hang of a new school year. They begin to compete exhaustively with one another.

Where a 95 percent on a test once was a great grade which one should be proud of, it is now noted as, "I can't believe she got a 98 percent!" Students constantly feel like they are not good enough if and only if someone else is better than they are.

Students strive to be the best. They strive to do more extracurriculars and sports than their friends do, to get better grades than their friends get, to win more awards than their friends win, and to be more involved than their friends are. Students even see who can get into the best high schools by applying out of their already top-notch private school into another. But why does this need to outdo one another even exist in the first place?

I have heard from many that it's all about college. People whose grandparents have attended Harvard or Yale feel that they should go there, too. What they do not understand is the huge difference between getting into an Ivy League then and now. They think that the more you do, the better a chance you have at getting into a better college than the next person.

One freshman attending an NYC independent school even told me, "My goal is to get my name on at least four plaques in the school by the end of my high school career. Hopefully one day, I'll be off to an Ivy!" Students constantly obsess with college, even if they're just freshmen! In my point of view, as a freshman, this is the one year we have to enjoy things, free of standardized tests. Of course, school is always stressful, but that doesn't mean that you should be adding stress to your already-full-plate by worrying about your future! They overwhelm themselves hoping their efforts will all pay off when an acceptance letter comes to their door. They don't realize it is about quality, and not about quantity. Nevertheless, it continues.

Some say that it comes from the pressure of parents and even schools as a whole. After all, private schools in New York City are competing with one another. High school students may feel like their reputations leave a mark on the school's reputation. Parents may also be competing among themselves. Whose kid does the most, and whose kid gets the best grades? Parents glow when they know that their children are at the top of their class, possibly to relive a dream of being top students themselves.

In my opinion, fear is the driving factor for students' desire for perfection. What if I fail this test? What if I don't have enough extracurriculars? What will my parents say? Will I get into college? What if it's not the best in state? High school students are afraid of their future, and afraid of judgment. What will my parents say? What will my friends say? What will my teachers say?

This will all stop if students can learn to pause and worry about the present moment, give or take a week or two!

I believe that the fear of what is to come makes students compete so vigorously. The consequences are endless, so if they do everything they can to avoid those consequences, 'what if' statements don't have to be in sight.