Is Competition in High Schools Good?

By on September 7, 2011

This post is by Josie Yang, a member of Acceptional’s High School Journalism Program. This is her account of the sometimes over-competitive nature of high school life, and her suggestions for addressing it.

As I prepare to begin my last year of school, I have been doing a lot of thinking. A lot of it is nostalgic in nature—fun classes and quirky teachers—but there’s also some regret. I spent much of my time stressing about my chances of getting into a “good” college (even when I didn’t know what “good” implied), and competing with my classmates. Now, cooperation in schools is a good thing, but competition is not. Unfortunately, competition is something my school encourages as part of its culture. As the years progressed, I found myself trying to match up more and more to my peers, even pushing myself too far. It’s something I’m not proud of and something I have to warn people about.

Most of us are not at the top of our classes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you’ve failed a test that your friends thought was easy, or you’re only taking one AP class while they are taking on five, it can be hard to feel good about your own academic achievements. In response to my own feelings of inadequacy, I tried to “one-up” my friends when I could, but it almost ruined my junior year GPA because I took on too much work. Challenging myself wasn’t a bad thing, but I needed to re-evaluate my goals. We ought to do things because they will help ourselves in the future, not to impress or match up to anyone. One of the worst situations I witnessed was when my friend Shelly went around asking everyone if our other friend Tara was participating in a summer internship that year. As Shelly widely claimed, Tara was purposely being secretive because she wasn’t willing to share the internship opportunity with anyone else. Tara had been keeping her internship a secret, but were Shelly’s reasons right? In fact, were Tara’s? This is what mindless competition does to us. We act maliciously toward others in the hopes that it will benefit us somehow, and it rarely does. If we spend a little less time worrying about everyone else and a little more time focusing on our goals, we can remove some of the stress from our lives and perhaps do better academically.

In high school we are all so worried about our futures that we convince ourselves, “If I do better than these people here, I will be set for life.” I know those insecurities can be hard to overcome, but believe me when I say that everyone else is doing the exact same thing: fumbling around in the dark, terrified, hoping that it will turn out all right in the end. With high school as difficult as it already is, why make things harder? Rid yourself of that dog-eat-dog mentality and focus on your own success. It will get you farther in life.


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  1. Regina Liu

    September 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Especially because I attend the same school, I have also witnessed this type of aggressive, competitive behavior among peers. Competition can definitely be a positive incentive to work harder, but too many high school students nowadays get caught up in their desire to “win”. After all, there is a fine line between positive competition and negative competition. Many students need to stop letting their fear of “winning” or “losing” govern their lives and just do their own thing.

  2. Andre Tarquinio

    September 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    This is a great post and in my school it is very similar. We are encourage to load our schedule up with AP courses and many students, myself included, find themselves bombarded with more work then they can handle. I feel that because colleges accept students based on GPA as well as strength of schedule this competition is somewhat necessary.

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