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The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

The Curse of Competition


   On Nov. 1 every year, hundreds of thousands of students open the Common Application ready to apply to college. Their applications reflect four years of classes, essays, clubs, SAT scores and everything else they have done throughout high school. However, when they press submit, all of their hard work is compared and labeled “accepted” or “rejected.”

   While college applications are advertised as holistic, most factors are reduced to a single number such as GPA, SAT scores or class rank. Academic performance and intelligence are often conflated, and when that is turned into a number that is easy to compare with everyone else’s, a toxic environment can ensue.  At a college preparatory school, the competitive atmosphere is magnified; every grade received feels like an indicator of what college you will get into or how successful you will be. 

    Competition in our classrooms can be seen as a driving factor to perform better. However, as it is pushed into the extreme, it turns into an extra weight students have to carry. When every student is competing for the top, there is a mentality that even one small mistake is unacceptable. Students fear failure, but to them failure could be simply getting an A instead of an A plus. When success is defined as being the top of the class, there is little room for everyone to feel successful. 

    A survey done by the Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of teens believe anxiety and depression is a major problem among their peers. The competitiveness creates a stress to always be performing to the same level your peers are. A student’s mental health should not be sacrificed in order to get a college acceptance, however, to many students that is a sacrifice they are willing to make.

    This stress stems from the belief that only the top will make it into a college of their choice. Top colleges will only take a select few students from each high school, so if you want to go to one, then you must perform better than everyone else. This belief, combined with pressure from parents and the fear of being viewed as less intelligent, pushes students to overwork themselves.

   “Sometimes [competition] just stresses me out and gives me anxiety,” senior Katie Corddry said. “Then, I will perform worse because it gives me test anxiety. Also, it can hurt your feelings to hear people talking about I got this and you’re like well I didn’t get that. You assume because Trinity is so good academically that you’re average, and really we’re all way above average.”

   To stop competition from consuming our classrooms, changes must be made by the students and the school. The students do not have to stop caring about their own grades— rather, they have to stop caring about one another’s grades. Compete with yourself to earn a higher grade on the next test, not a higher grade than your peers.

   By making comments on what grades or SAT scores are considered acceptable, students are creating a bar for intelligence that does not exist. In an environment where everyone openly shares their grades, students’ work becomes reduced to a number and used as comparison. 

   Students must recognize the toxic competition and actively try to avoid it. By keeping grades private or not making comments on the difficulty of assignments, other students are not given the opportunity to feed into the competition. Once someone shares a grade, it becomes a battle of who is the smartest.

   “I think you should just keep all your information to yourself, and you do not have to share with anyone,” Corddry said. “Also, I don’t think everyone needs to know each other’s grades or ask other people what they got. I think it’s our culture as a school to be like what did you get on this test. But you can exclude yourself from that.” 

   The school must try to minimize the competitive environment and actively make strides to foster group work. A valedictorian title could be viewed as a reward for four years of a dedication to academics. However, when students only focus on the recognition and opt to not take classes knowing it could hurt their GPA, they are actively hurting their education. One way to help reduce competition is by getting rid of valedictorian and other class ranks. Learning should never be a fight to the top, and when a coveted title is dangled above students’ heads, they lose sight of the actual goals of education. 

   Another way schools can help toxic competition is by making group work a priority. Trinity is not just a college preparatory school, but rather a school that prepares students for the rest of their lives. Being able to work in a team efficiently is a valuable skill, but being highly competitive contradicts teamwork. By adding in more collaboration in the classroom and throughout the rest of the school, students are put in multiple situations where they must learn to put collaboration over competition.

   As a school, we must make efforts to reduce competition in order to keep students less stressed on what the person next to them got on a test, and rather concerned on how they can improve their own grade. The less competition there is then the more students will be able to comfortably come to school and learn effectively. The number in red on the top of a paper does not define a student— it is the effort that went into achieving that number that matters. 

   The lead editorial expresses the opinion of the Trinity Voice editorial staff. Please send comments to [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Abby Hernan
Abby Hernan, Opinions Editor
Abby Hernan is currently a senior entering her second year on staff as opinions editor. In her free time, she enjoys binging reality TV, playing with her dogs and being with her friends.  Contact her at [email protected].

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