Call to mind a few teenagers you know personally. How many do you think have participated in an activity for the sole purpose of putting it on a college application? My guess is more than a few. The standards of today’s society and education system have gotten out of control. So much is expected of teens in order to ensure future success; many are dealing with immense amounts of stress. This increasing pressure is taking a serious toll on the upcoming generation and must be dealt with by educators and American society as a whole.
As a high school student in my junior year, I am subject to such pressure and expectations, academically and otherwise. Involvement in outside activities is a key role in college admissions. It shows hard work and commitment. However, often times in today’s society it reaches a level that becomes unhealthy as teenagers try to “out do” other applicants. These high stress levels resulting from busy schedules are not good for the health of teenagers. Professionals at the Cleveland Clinic say that emotional stress can be a primary trigger for migraines, which increase in frequency as teens get older. Once migraines are triggered, they often affect a person for at least a year after onset.
Personally, I have seen how stress can affect teenagers. Two of my older sisters suffer from chronic migraines, which are worsened by stress. This affects my whole family, who worry about them and are always wanting to help. One of my sisters is a senior and she tries to remain involved at school, as she is very ambitious and wants to attend Marquette University. Her busy schedule and academic pressure often leave her with severe headaches and over time she developed an anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health verifies that about 25 percent of teens age 13 to 18 are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Of this 25 percent, 80 percent are not getting the treatment they need. Is this because teens are led to believe the anxiety they feel is normal?
Feeling stress is normal and a part of growing up. It can help prepare teens for life after high school. However, teens are not taught how to manage high levels of stress, which often leads to drug and alcohol abuse. As a high schooler, I see what goes on at school and outside of school. Many of my peers spend all week anticipating the parties on the weekends where they can finally get a drink. Many of my peers spend all day waiting for the last bell to ring so they can go to their car and smoke. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites that alcohol has a 58.2 percent prevalence level among high school students, and marijuana use comes in second with a 34.9 percent prevalence level. This is what teens do to relieve stress.
Similar to medical concerns, I have family connections to this issue. My oldest sister couldn’t handle the pressures and expectations of high school and consequently college. She became involved with drugs and alcohol in high school to deal with her busy schedule. She was a part of the cheer and dance teams, in student senate, best buddies, as well as involvement with church. By the time she was college age, she couldn’t do it anymore and dropped out after freshman year. This is not what we want to see happen to the current generation of high school students. To resolve these issues, it would be beneficial if colleges set specific requirements and perhaps a cut off. That is, after a certain number of extra curriculars, the applicant is no longer any more impressive.
To close, the system and competitiveness of college acceptance should be re-evaluated due to the effect it has on teens. At this rate, it’s amazing so many students go to college and graduate. While a college education is important, is it really worth the anxiety, stress, and consequences for kids and young adults?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.