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The student news site of Stockbridge High School


The student news site of Stockbridge High School


Survival of the smartest

Academic competition between students
Nicole Wadkins
Senior Brady Cole studies for his upcoming calculus test by memorizing the formulas to antiderivatives and integrals. Cole is also enrolled in AP Literature, AP Computer Science and AP World History.

Competitiveness, the need to win and be the best, is something that comes naturally to humans. According to Sander van der Linden, a renowned social psychologist, competitiveness is what commonly drives us to work harder. The determination to prosper in sports, games and careers often stems from a sense of competitiveness. 

In school, students often compete for the best grades, the most honors and the highest GPA. But when does it become too much? Can this seemingly healthy competition among aspiring students take a deleterious turn?

Sarah Garcia-Linz, an academic coach at Lansing Community College, believes there are both positive and negative impacts of competitiveness in high school.

“There is definitely pressure to be successful in school which can undoubtedly cause stress. But challenge is also what helps us learn and grow as humans,” Garcia-Lin said. “I think it’s a complicated matter; there really is no clear answer.”

On one hand, academic competition often serves as a good motivator. It allows students to set goals and gives them something to work towards. In fact, according to American Heritage School, It’s been proven that the social motivation of competing against school peers can push students to be more dedicated to their academics because it inspires them to do their best instead of just good enough. 

Leslie Cummings, the Stockbridge counselor, has had personal experiences where she has seen firsthand how competition has moved students to put in more effort with their classes. 

“I had this one student – a smart kid – but he struggled with motivation. One day he got into a competition with another student and I’ve never seen him work harder,” Cummings said. “Competition allowed him to care, so I’d say it’s a good thing for the most part.” 

The benefits of competition extend far beyond motivation. Actually, the advantages can reach into many aspects of your life. Garcia-Linz says it can teach you valuable life lessons such as learning how to lose with grace, adopting a growth mindset, managing your stress and balancing your time and responsibilities. But what Garcia-Linz deems as the most important takeaway from academic competition is that it prepares you for the workforce.

“There are few jobs in which there is no competition. Usually, people who outperform others often have more opportunities to advance,” Garcia-Linz said. “Some competition in school is good because it prepares you early on.”

Individuals among the student body thrive in the competitive environment that a school can feel. Senior Jason Gruber is a prime example of this. Throughout his high school career, Gruber has continuously worked hard and has a bright future. He says that the unspoken competition among students and the need to stand out, has played a role in his success. 

“I’ve always driven myself to achieve the best that I can because I know with effort and dedication I am capable of doing well,” Gruber said. “Competition has definitely aided me in that drive up till now.”

Competition has its benefits. However, even with all the good it brings, it appears to also have a hidden dark side. According to the Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, competition, when taken to the extreme, can often lead to a fear of failure, negative feelings and bad health. This overzealous competitiveness is not entirely uncommon in students. Cummings, though usually an advocate for competition, says that she’s seen students put too much importance on their grades up to the point that students don’t want to challenge themselves for fear of failing and falling behind other students.

“I’ve had many students hold themselves back from what they’re really capable of so they don’t run the risk of not getting straight A’s or ruining their 4.0 GPA,” Cummings said. “They are far too focused on material things instead of pushing themselves and trying their best. It’s sad to see.”

Cummings isn’t alone in this realization. Students themselves have discerned that they put too much of their self-worth on their grades and often can experience self-deprecating thoughts when they don’t perform as well as their peers. 

“We have always been told to strive to be the best in the class which creates a sense of competition with your peers. But some people are just naturally better at things than others, which can make you feel inadequate even if you’re not,” senior Coco Cesarz said. “There have been many moments, throughout high school especially, that I have felt like a failure as a person because of this.”

Cesarz is not alone in her struggle with the competitive nature cultivated in school. Senior Gavin Hart shares similar thoughts and experiences. 

“I often find myself comparing my academic success to other students,” Hart said. “I feel I subconsciously do it to feel better about myself if I did better than them. In contrast, I also beat myself up if others do a lot better than me. It makes me feel like an absolute idiot.”

The severe downsides to competition don’t stop there. The sense of competition that students so frequently carry can even impact their health. Garcia-Linz notes that she commonly sees this among high school and college students. 

“I notice a culture of perfectionism among a lot of students and an issue I would see from them as a result of this was eating disorders,” Garcia-Linz said. “It’s really heartbreaking to see and sadly I see it pretty regularly in students.”

It seems that on a surface level competition among students can reap many benefits. In addition, it can be a very useful tool for them. However, when diving deeper into the darker nature competition can have, it has been found that it can have very damaging effects on the student body. 

“Some competition is a good thing. It is important to have some motivation to do your best,” Garcia-linz said. “However, it also can become unhealthy. Too much competition or pressure to be the best can lead to mental health issues, which unfortunately happens way too often in school.”

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About the Contributors
Kaitlyn Oversmith, Reporter
For the first and last time, Kaitlyn Oversmith is an Uncaged reporter for the 2023-24 school year. Besides recently joining the world of Journalism, she is also a member of NHS. Outside of school, Kaitlyn enjoys reading and movies, particularly in the horror genre. She has also been a competitive dancer for the past twelve years and is currently preparing for her last show. After high school, Kaitlyn aspires to be a lawyer and hopes to eventually attend U of M for law school.
Nicole Wadkins, Creative Editor & Web Manager
Standing 151 cm tall and running on spite alone, Nicole Wadkins is the Web developer and Creative editor for Uncaged. This is her second year joining the family. She is the vice president for NHS and an officer for student council. Nicole plans to pursue a career in graphic design and will go to college to get her degree after graduation. In her free time she likes to watch and read anime while playing with her dog. Nicole also enjoys arts and crafts. Her zodiac sign is Taurus and a personality of INTJ.
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