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We all want to succeed and do the best we can. But the fear of failure looms over everyone’s shoulder, staring us down as we venture through our academic journey, even before we step foot into our high schools.

Why Be Stressed About College Now?

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Pressure, stress, degrading mental health — all of these are the effects of being a young adult or teen in high school today. Even before we become full-fledged high schoolers, we already feel that pressure. We are already worrying about being asked to apply for the most prestigious colleges. Even though we haven’t even started high school, our parents and their friends want to know what we want to major in. Some of us can barely figure out our high school schedule, so why worry about college now?

We all want to succeed and do the best we can. But the fear of failure looms over everyone’s shoulder, staring us down as we venture through our academic journey, even before we step foot into our high schools. So, I spoke to some fellow VOX Media Cafe participants about this stress.

Jiya Mahajan, 14, who goes to school in Gwinnett County, describes: “Knowing I’m going into high school, I already feel pressure and stress. I try to cope by distracting myself with activities such as dance, but that stress still lingers.” 

Over time, stress builds and builds as students near the season for college applications. The air is filled with tension and more worrying. “Why is this so hard?” “Why does this process fill me with so much anxiety?” These are all questions I constantly ask myself. 

Fear of failure and letting those around us down is what seems to control this stress and constant anxiety. According to Bailey Clark, 15, who goes to the Lovett School, “I always feel like I have to do really well because of all the pressure from school and even from my parents.” 

Zeydah Trotter, 15, who attends Pebblebrook High School, describes her high school experience: “When I look around at other students and see how well they are doing, it puts pressure on me, and trying to get involved in school has also been a struggle, so that will add to my stress. Academically, when I get a bad score on a test it really freaks me out, and I feel very bad about myself. Society makes it feel like you have to be the best in school in order to succeed.” 

Too much stress without relief can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, and other ways of poor coping. Without proper coping, teens can fall down a rabbit hole and start using drugs or alcohol. In fact, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, drug use went up 61% among U.S. 8th graders between 2016 and 2020, and 4,777 Americans aged 15 to 24 years old died of an overdose of illicit drugs in 2019.

Another major example of the inability to cope with stress is the increased suicide and mental disorder rates. The American Psychological Association reported in 2022, “…between 2016 and 2020, the number of children aged 3 to 17 diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29% and those with depression by 27%.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates increased 36% between 2000–2021, and in 2021 suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14. And in 2021, 42% of students “felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third (29%) experienced poor mental health.”  The more and more teens get stressed, the harder it is for us to cope properly, so some people turn to the worst coping method there is, suicide.

There are lots of ways to cope healthfully, and even the simplest of things can help relieve stress. According to my VOX Media Cafe peers, some easy ways to relieve stress are listening to music, doing activities you love, taking a walk outside, learning new things, and sometimes even letting out your anger in safe ways can help. I admit to punching pillows and throwing things at beanbags. That’s the way I let out my stress and it truly helps, though not everyone can use that method.

Even though I’m already feeling the pressure of college before I set foot into high school, I’ve been able to equip myself with sufficient coping methods. I hope that as we all start, endure, and finish high school, we’re able to cope properly and do amazing knowing we did our best! 

VOX ATL invites all Georgia youth to speak up through our annual survey! It’s anonymous, easy to take on your phone & you could win $50 in our drawing.  So click ASAP to take it & help spread the word. You could win $50! Thanks!
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