photo by Mia Capretta
Everyone has heard the saying “competition breeds excellence” at one point in their life. It is almost a part of human nature to strive to be the best among your peers. But is it healthy to be surrounded by competition every day?
North Allegheny has always established itself as an academically accomplished district. Whether it is due to the teachers or parents, students at North Allegheny are under constant pressure to maintain this prestigious standard.
Needless to say, many NA grads benefit by virtue of the fact that they attended such an educationally esteemed school. But there are not-so-hidden costs associated with the grade race here.
This standard is good for some students, but for others it is a heavy burden. NA has a considerable number of students who enjoy spending their time studying and are gifted learners. In fact, the standards are so high here that there are many juniors and seniors with 4.0 GPAs who would shudder to see how low their class rank is.
NA also has a number of students who spend significant time with various sports, other extra-curricular pursuits, and even part-time jobs. These are the particular students who fall prey to the harshness of academic competition. It has become almost impossible to stand out academically unless you are sacrificing your time on the evenings and weekends or your parents’ money by investing in tutors and prep classes. In most cases, the extra help makes it much easier to remain above standard. For those wanting to stand out without sacrificing their everyday routines, this reality can be very frustrating.
There was an incident that occurred during the 2017-18 school year, where a technology error released the class rank list out to students via Tyler. It immediately became apparent that the technological slip-up had the potential to destroy friendships or send students to their counselors’ office for reassurance that they would still get accepted into college. To see where we fell in line in comparison to the rest of the class was devastating for some.
After talking to my peers, I don’t think anyone is really sure if they are better off competing with their classmates or not. For some, the drive to be at the top is reason enough to spend their weekends locked in a dungeon of AP homework. For others, the anxiety that comes with falling inferior to others causes them to shy away from working towards competitive scores.
Julia Wonsettler sees both sides of the issue. “I feel that a certain amount of competition in anything is to my benefit, as it allows me to become the best version of myself,” the junior said. “However, competition between peers can become excessive and can hinder friendships between students.”
The latter part of her statement brings up a very important point. What if your GPA or SAT score is lower than that of your best friend? As trivial as it sounds, it would be naive to think your relationship will go on unaffected. Since we all have become so comfortable in the drive for straight As, it has blended into our personal lives and relationships.
Lily Kenna summed up the sentiment perfectly. “I feel like I am stupid if I don’t perform as well as my friends do, especially when they are disappointed with their score that is better than mine,” the senior said.
I believe that we as a student body have let the competitiveness get to our heads. While it is healthy for some, it is unhealthy for others. We should be striving for excellence within ourselves instead of against each other.