Under pressure: are students still self-motivated?

Ava Mitchell '20, Associate Editor of Pulse

In today’s day and age, students face more pressure than ever when it comes to getting into college. Getting good grades doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Students feel as though they must get the best grades, have the highest test scores and participate in the most extracurricular activities in order to stand out to admissions officers. 

Not only does getting into college matter, but getting into the “right” college is also a huge factor that places a lot of physical and emotional stress on high school students. According to a study conducted by NYU, “nearly half (49%) of all students reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31 percent reported feeling somewhat stressed. Females reported significantly higher levels of stress than males (60% vs. 41%). Grades, homework and preparing for college were the greatest sources of stress for both genders.”

We already live in an incredibly competitive society, and on top of that, a competitive community. Students are constantly comparing their academic statistics with each other. It’s easy to get caught up in ACT scores, GPA and the overall rat race that makes up a high school student’s life.

These outside opinions that dictate what makes a student desirable to a college admissions officer beg one question: are students still motivated by their passions, or do they just aim to fill another line on their college applications?

In my opinion, the answer is not so black and white.

I do believe  students are still self-motivated, but I think the reasons for that motivation have changed as our society has become increasingly cutthroat. Instead of being driven by something that interests us, we look to participate in activities that improve our chances of being viewed as “successful” by our peers. 

I say “successful” because of how subjective the word is. I believe students should follow their true interests– not another voice telling them what they should be.

Sadly, that is not the reality of the world in 2019. Living in an area where academics are so highly valued, it is no surprise that high-achieving students do whatever they can to get ahead. In my opinion, taking classes and participating in activities that peak one’s interest will allow them to excel, which in turn will make them more unique.

That being said, this change in motivation may not be all bad. While on the one hand, it can make students appear less individual, I applaud high schoolers on their ability to identify what will benefit them and accomplish that goal. 

“Playing the game” is definitely a skill, and one that is necessary to have in order to succeed in the working world. It is absolutely true that certain people or jobs look for specific qualities in an employee when they are hiring. Being able to adapt is necessary if students want to not only survive, but also thrive in our fast-paced world.