Academic competition has become increasingly prevalent in recent years due to the increased value of college, as well as a steady decrease in average admission rates in college. This leads academically driven students to believe that obtaining a good job depends on going to a prestigious college, which can only be possible through top grades, hours of extracurricular activities and achieving a top score in standardized testing. This experience of working under pressure at such an early age develops students so that they are more prepared for college and work life. Competition additionally develops students to have the motivation to succeed without others pushing them, for they push themselves through peer pressure as a motivating factor. Students who excel through competing with others and coming out on top often receive self-esteem boosts and are motivated to work even harder. Competition works the best for students who are more academically gifted.
While academic competition admittedly does have its benefits, it also causes several detrimental effects. First of all, competition forces teens to compare themselves to others rather than focusing on their own potential. By doing this, students often feel stressed to keep up with everyone else or live up to the expectations of their parents, sometimes having to cut into extracurricular activities and social time to keep up with others in school.
Additionally, stress and staying up late to work from the pressures of academic competition leads to sleep deprivation and also causes low energy, which makes it harder to pay attention in class. According to WebMD, sustained stress causes hormones such as cortisol to be circulated through the body and reduces the amount of dopamine and serotonin; this phenomenon has a strong link to depression. This all leads to an unhealthy, unbalanced life with too much focus on academics and not enough time and attention on everything else that matters in life.
As every student is unique, comparing themselves to others rather than trying to fulfill their own potential is detrimental to their identity and mental health. Those who are less academically gifted may struggle trying to compete with others in harder classes. Thus, these students become greatly discouraged by not being able to do as well as their competition and may even give up on their dreams and aspirations, or they may feel hopeless because of their narrow mindset that if they are not as good as others, then they cannot succeed anywhere in life. This causes them to engage less in school and try less, so unhealthy competition in this case can cause people to not succeed.
Competition as it exists today promotes the notion that we can only do better at the cost of someone else doing worse, essentially a narrow zero-sum viewpoint of how the world works. The reality is, everyone is different, and there is a plethora of colleges and life and career paths, so no one has to be at the top of the competition to get somewhere meaningful in life.
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