School life:

Common Stressors

Social Life

High school students are overloaded with stress; pushing and shoving the students from every angle stress is inevitable. Although test scores, report cards, and college are all overarching stressors that impact the present and future of high school students, they are not the only stressors. Friendships, relationships and social life as a whole plays a very big role in the stress-filled lives of high school students.

Social standing, gossip and high school friendships may not have a lasting impact on the life of the student after high school; however, high students remain stressed about each and every single one of them. Although these stressors are not lasting they effect the moment, and high schoolers love living in the now. Whether girls and boys want to admit it or not, their friendships, relationships, appearance and social life means a lot to them. No one wants to be lonely and it’s nice to have plans for saturday and sunday nights. The looming test in Pre-calculus is put on the back burner when there are football games and parties that simply cannot be missed. Social life and friendships and relationships may have not been as relevant in years past but in the 21st century "In a culture obsessed with youth, money and appearance, 16 is the new 30, and teenage girls' discontent about boys and clothes and one another has resonance" with almost all high school students (Stanley).

Social life may come second to grades and tests most of the time, but the stress from everything combined is unbearable and plays a negative role in the lives of the adolescent. One student said, “the harder your course work, the less fun time you'll have” (“Advice for freshmen”). Juggling multiple AP courses, ACT prep and a social butterfly status is extremely taxing on high school students Sometimes, fun isn’t sacrificed for hard coursework but sleep and sanity instead. Friends, parties, events, relationships all add to the stress high school students already endure and there is really no way around the simplicity of this fact.


Sleep

Today's teens have a list of priorities and things that need to be done every day, but are more likely than not leaving one crucial thing off of that list; sleep. With common sayings such as "sleep is for the weak," and "I'll sleep when I'm dead," it's easy to see why teenagers aren't valuing the basic necessity of sleep. Recent studies have shown that only 13% of high schoolers are getting the recommended amount of sleep necessary to feel fully energized, 8.5 to 9.5 hours each night. It have been averaged the the typical teen only gets five to six hours of sleep a night. This sort of sleep deprivation can lead to several serious physical, mental and behavioral issues. Including obesity, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and difficulty controlling emotions. Along with these mental and physical issues, the question of performance in school comes around. According to Dr. Judith Owens, "less sleep is associated with poor grades, and lower performance on standardized tests," such as the ACT, SAT, and state standardized tests. One possible solution to counter these negatives seen in high schoolers is to push back school start times. It has been documented that 40% of schools in America start earlier than 8AM and only 15% start later than 8:30AM. When it is scientifically proven that during adolescence the changes in the biological clock naturally make teens go to bed later, making it harder to wake up at the early times necessary to go to school. In studies in the Minneapolis local public school districts, implementing the later start times allowed for a dramatic increase in academic success, fewer students sleeping during class. The study also showed no adverse effects on extracurricular activities, nor sports.

Grades/Testing

While stress can be good for students in proper amounts, the stress put on students in school nowadays due to grades is detrimental to their heath. Stress should be used to drive students to perform their best and focus on their schoolwork but the insurmountable levels it is given in today does the exact opposite. It causes the mental, physical, and psychological health to decline and causes them to lash out. Stress can come from many sources in a student’s school life, but the main stressors are GPA, ACT and tests, and homework.

Kids in school have always worried about their grades. However, in more recent years, students have become more focused on grades rather than learning and can incentivize cheating. Subsequently, as students stress about their grades, they tend not to perform as well. Due to the fact that almost all college admission depends solely upon GPA and ACT or SAT scores, students become obsessed with keeping a high GPA.

ACT testing and final exams also put overwhelming amounts of stress on students. While they are an easy way to examine students comparatively they are not conducive to actual learning. Many students cram for final exams by studying for a few hours the night before, then take the exam and consequently forget everything the studied shortly after. By giving final exams as a major percentage of the overall grade, many schools confuse rigor with load (Mathews).

Homework has become a major problem for students, as they can be bogged down with several hours of it a night, on top of their already busy schedules. While homework in national high schools is about an hour a night on average, at high schools in upper-middle class communities there is an average of more than three hours of homework given each night (Mathews). It was found that “more time spent on homework is associated with greater stress; more compromised health; and less time for family, friends, and other extracurricular pursuits” (Mathews). Students who completed more hours of homework per night were at greater risk for these negative outcomes; they were also more likely to drop activities or hobbies they enjoyed in order to focus on their academic work (Mathews).

Sports/Extracurricular

School, sports, and extracurricular activities can greatly increase student’s stress levels, however this is not necessarily a negative thing the bodies response to stress can help a student concentrate on the task (Bratsis). Stress is very helpful in the short term and a normal and healthy response to a difficult situation and can drive students to achieve their goals such as getting an A on a test or making a game winning goal. The problem that many students encounter that most stressors are long term so students are put under near constant stress resulting in a host of physical and psychological issues.


Students today feel a larger than ever pressure to distinguish themselves from their peers, usually by participating in as many possible sports and extracurricular activities as possible. this added pressure compounded by most students already strenuous school schedule leads to students being stressed almost constantly causing severe problems that can severely impair their ability to be their absolute best, these include, irritability and moodiness, anxiety or panic attacks, stomach problems and headaches, acne and eczema, sleeping problems, overeating and weight gain, smoking and substance abuse, sadness or depression, and a weakened immune system (Bratsis)


As harmful as it can be in the long term stress in the short term is quite beneficial, it heightens the senses and can push students to work hard to perform to their fullest potential. When stressed hypothalamus spurs the adrenal glands to ramp up production of adrenaline and cortisol. This speeds the heart rate and breathing rate and increases blood pressure and metabolism. Blood vessels widen to increase flow to large muscle groups. Pupils dilate to improve vision. The liver releases stored glucose to boost energy levels. Sweat cools the body. Mental and physical reactions quicken (Bratsis).


Stress is not an inherently negative thing, however the amount of stress placed on students can be very harmful, and it will most likely not change for the better any time soon, if anything students will most likely be experiencing more stress in the coming years. When dealing with such large amounts of stress it’s important for students to learn healthy methods of dealing with stress, and it is important for parents, coaches, and even their peers to understand what they are going through.

College

Each aspect of an aspiring students life affects their college acceptance. The amount of requirements for a student to be considered is overwhelming and can be potentially unbeneficial to students. Starting their high school career, a student is not necessarily pushed to explore their talents and interests, but instead they are shaped by the hands of higher education to make sure they are coloring inside the lines. Leading youth down a path where they can be better prepared for the future is a great focus, but in modern society, the ways students are led down the path can be extremely inefficient and can cause heavy amounts of stress. One side of education teaches youth to think strictly critically and follow directions, while the other side cannot understand why students as a whole are not thinking outside the box. Colleges focus on standardized tests and extracurricular activities to look for who they will provide financial aid to (Porter). Standardized testing, however, cannot always provide the best estimate for a deserving candidate for their specific career choice. With the vast differences in the way young minds work naturally, the general testing and requirements colleges look for are too narrow for many students - who would otherwise have massive potential - to succeed and reach that full potential.

“As college costs rise and the options for financing a college education proliferate, the topic of postsecondary education becomes bewilderingly complex,” even with the infinite amount of scholarships available to all students (Porter). The reason being the needed time to complete scholarship applications, regular applications, receive outstanding grades for the classes the individuals are in which can span up to 6 hours, and have enough time to carry out a healthy social and mental health state. Because of the lack of importance off the latter, students can care less about social and mental health as those factors will not get them acceptance into a desired college. Time management is everything but can be theoretically impossible in some instances. This especially comes into play when individuals require money from jobs (most of which are minimum wage because higher paying jobs are not given to most students due to lack of experience).

These issues are just the beginning. Once students are able to attend college, their stress levels become even more prevalent in response to the environmental factors of college life. According to an article about managing college stress, “the level of stress experienced by college students has grown significantly over the past 30 years” (Watson). The education of today therefore is pushing more and more responsibility by means of a broken system that causes stress on individuals that lead them to partake in unhealthy stress relieving acts along with potentially causing damage to their mental health.

Works Cited

Bratsis, Michael E. "The stress response: the good and the bad." The Science Teacher 79.9 (2012): 74. Student Resources in Context. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Mathews, Jay. "Differing opinions on school stress and healthy homework levels." Washington Post 28 Apr. 2014. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Mullins, Julian. "Stress." Skipping Stones Nov.-Dec. 2012: 31. Student Resources in Context. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Nance, Molly. "The psychological impact of academic probation: UC San Diego researchers are investigating the correlation between physiological distress and poor grades." Diverse Issues in Higher Education 1 Nov. 2007: 12. Student Resources in Context. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Porter, Betty. "College Financing Information for Teens: Tips for a Successful Financial Life: Including Facts about Planning, Saving, and Paying for Post-Secondary Education, with Information about College Savings Plans, Scholarships, Grants, Loans, Military Service, and More." Reference & User Services Quarterly Winter 2008: 192. Student Resources in Context. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Shannon M., et al. "Sources of stress for students in high school college preparatory and general education programs: group differences and associations with adjustment." Adolescence 44.176 (2009): 925 . Student Resources in Context. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

"Teen Problems Linked To Deprivation of Sleep." Nation's Health 29.10 (1999):12. MaterFILE Complete. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

"Video: Teens." Local Broadcast Video Content. 4 Mar. 2015. Student Resources in Context. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Watson, Joshua C. "Managing college stress: the role of college counselors." Journal of College Counseling Apr. 2012: 3+. Student Resources in Context. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.