How Much is Too Much?

How Much is Too Much?

After reading Alexandra Robbins’s journalistic expose The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, which shows the lives of and pressure placed upon multiple students in a competitive American public high school, it made me wonder if this idea of achieving resonated as well with PHHS students as it did with those that attend Walt Whitman. Returning to our spot as one of the best public high schools in the state, it’s no secret that Pascack Hills is academically miles ahead of the typical American high school. The college admission process is difficult and students do anything they can to get an edge on one another, such as taking more rigorous courses and increasing their club count so they’re accepted into a school with more prestige. This leads me to the question – between all the stress and pressure you potentially face in your four years of high school, is it worth succumbing to the same overachiever culture Whitman students faced in The Overachievers? And, more importantly, are you one of the 65% of PHHS students that take harder classes with the intent of getting into a prestigious college?

The prestige of one’s college does not, and should not, equate to one’s happiness in college. It doesn’t matter whether you attend an Ivy League or a community college, the experience is what YOU choose to make of it, and by placing more stress on yourself by taking harder classes to increase your odds at getting in a prestigious school isn’t logical, especially when, according to a survey, 83% of Pascack Hills students cite their academics as a leading cause of their stress. I’m not saying taking AP courses is a bad thing, as challenging yourself only results in strengthening your brain. Just make sure that when you’re taking these courses, you’re doing it for the right reasons, the subject should pique your interest and not just because it looks better on your application.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just academics that seem to be stressing students out. The pressure to be what colleges deem a “well-rounded student” is just as omnipresent outside of the classroom as it is inside. You have to be a president of a club, a varsity athlete, a member of Mensa, fly a rocket to the moon – you get the point. The fact of the matter is that colleges have unrealistic expectations for students and just because you may not fit their expected mold doesn’t mean you’ll be rejected from every college. Make sure you do what you want in school and don’t live your days making sure you check off every box on a checklist to assure you’re the perfect student.

Getting stressed out over an assignment or two in high school isn’t deviating from the norm by any means, but don’t let the stress and pressure college engulf you to the point that your social life is non-existent. Pascack Hills guidance counselor, Mrs. Donnelly, believes students should think about college and do as well as they can academically, but we shouldn’t push ourselves TOO hard.

“Take it one day at a time and do the best you possibly can,” Donnelly suggests. “You can only control so much, just make sure that you can say that you gave it your all at the end of the day.”

I implore readers to do two things. 1) Reread this article prior to making your schedule for the next school year. Ask yourself: Am I taking this class for personal interest and the personal challenge, or do I want colleges to like me more? And 2) Take Mrs. Donnelly’s excellent advice. Do YOUR best and don’t set unreachable goals that you obsess over. Make sure you enjoy your high school years, as these are some of the best of our lives.