A for Anxious?

For most students straight A’s is the goal, but with straight A’s comes stress, burnout, and constant pressure.

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Chloe Oppelt

For most students straight A’s is the goal, but with straight A’s comes stress, burnout, and constant pressure.

“A.” A letter that for many students brings a sense of accomplishment. A letter so many of us strive to achieve. A letter that can make or break your report card. A letter that carries both an honor and a burden all at once.

For many students, receiving straight A’s is their main academic goal. It’s what their parents want, what teachers encourage, and what colleges look for on transcripts. Students believe that anything below an A is unacceptable and embarrassing, while in reality receiving straight A’s is unrealistic and oftentimes proves to be unhealthy for students’ mental health. While school is unarguably important and likely the most time consuming activity in students’ lives, focusing all our energy into receiving straight A’s and perfect scores will ultimately lead to burnout and stress. As mental health becomes an increasingly relevant topic in our modern society, it’s essential to recognize that straight A students suffer from mental strains too.

An “A” grade represents a student’s ability to exceed the benchmark or expectations for that material. For many students, an A is the expectation, but is this a truly realistic one to have? The idea that students should be able to exceed expectations for all assignments and in all classes is an almost impossible concept to grasp. As a student who has taken more “advanced” courses and become familiar with the label of an “honors student” it’s safe to say that the pressures and expectations placed upon us are typically unrealistic. Especially for many students who have been labeled “gifted students” from a young age, these expectations are a cause for burnout and lack of motivation.

The main issue with always working on schoolwork and aiming for straight A’s is its effect on your mental health. Having such a high expectation for students not only causes them to feel constantly burdened by their schoolwork and stressed about their scores, but it also results in their disappointment when they perform at a lower level than they anticipated for themselves. Grades do matter, but they don’t matter more than our mental health does. We should never have to sacrifice our mental well being for a score on a transcript. When schoolwork becomes our sole focus, it’s important to take a step back and spend time in other areas of our lives.

Mary Wilde, sophomore, is familiar with the responsibilities that come along with being a straight A student. Like many other students, her nights are filled with studying and homework assignments rather than relaxation and friends.

“I’ve always been a straight A student because it’s an expectation that society and my parents have set for me. It has come with a lot of stress and I’ve had to replace my free time with hours of studying each night. The rewarding feeling of getting straight A’s isn’t always worth the stress that comes with it,” said Mary Wilde, ‘24.

According to a survey done by the Pew Research Center, 61% of 13-17 year old students report being under extreme pressure to receive good grades in school. This number is twice the amount of students who report feeling pressured to fit in, in terms of their appearance. The fact that grades appear to be the main cause of pressure and stress for students is extremely worrisome. While students do spend most of their time in school, completing homework assignments, or focusing on grades, it’s important to acknowledge our need for time off and exploring other interests. Aside from being students, we have other roles to fill in our lives and other activities we are committed to. Learning to take breaks and fill our schedules with more than just school work will not only produce happier students now, but more efficient workers in the future.

Similar to a majority of her classmates, Maya Marquardt, sophomore, has to juggle her responsibilities outside of school, extracurricular activities, and schoolwork each night.

“Getting straight A’s almost feels like a requirement for me. As if not getting A’s on every assignment means I won’t succeed or get into a good college. I’m in a lot of time consuming activities so trying to balance practices, homework, studying, and [soccer] games can be super stressful for me,” said Marquardt, ‘24.

Getting straight A’s almost feels like a requirement for me. As if not getting A’s on every assignment means I won’t succeed or get into a good college.”

— Maya Marquardt

Although working towards straight A’s may seem like a big deal now, in the long run it really isn’t. Thinking about the big picture, not receiving perfect grades in every course you take won’t have a huge impact on your life. It’s important for us to realize that achieving straight A’s also does not guarantee future career success, in fact it almost ensures that you won’t reach your full potential. Receiving straight A’s shows that you are in your comfort zone and fully understand the material you are learning. We should all try stepping out of that zone and challenging ourselves with new, unfamiliar material, to give ourselves the ability to grow. Typically, most of us remain in our comfort zone because of fear, specifically fear of failure. Accepting that failure is inevitable allows us to realize that while it may appear intimidating, it’s better to experience it now than enter the workforce having never failed a task. Willing to take the risk of getting a B or even a C could prove worthwhile in the end and teach us all a valuable lesson.

Instead of aiming for all A’s and perfection in school, we should set realistic expectations for ourselves that can be more easily achieved. We’ve all experienced studying for days on end, forcing ourselves to stay up all night, just to receive a lower grade than we had hoped for. In the end, we were sleep deprived and disappointed and all we had to show for it was a lower grade than we had hoped for. If we were to set realistic expectations for our grades from the start, we wouldn’t be upset or angry with ourselves in the end.

I’m not suggesting that we all give up on aiming for our best on each assignment and exam. In fact, we should do just that: our best. For a large majority of us, straight A’s just aren’t attainable with our busy schedules and social lives, but there isn’t anything wrong with that. As long as you put forth your best effort and achieve your goals, why should getting straight A’s really matter?