Academic Stress: A Tangible Force in Student Life

Media provided by Louise Giddings ’23

Stress put on students due to rising grade standards is extremely high. Grades have become an increasingly prominent source of pressure in the lives of high schoolers. The middle to high school transition, lower college admission rates, the pressure of grades, and how grades impact a student’s self confidence all pose challenges to today’s students. 

The tough transition from middle to high school is stressful and difficult for many 9th graders. Abby G. ’26, who formerly went to Packer Collegiate in Brooklyn,  says, “In middle school I had about even work for each class and enough time to dedicate myself to each.”

Like many students, Abby questions the validity of her work, explaining, “The work I turn in feels subpar even after spending hours on one assignment,” she said. Tough and extremely time consuming work can increase stress and provoke burnout amongst students. 

The pressure on students may even be interfering with their learning. Taylor G. ‘25 believes that sometimes, “we’re so stressed about grades it hinders our abilities to actually learn the material.” 

According to research published in Psychology Today, “Stress has been shown to annihilate our ability to retrieve old memories. It offers a brain-based explanation for why we so often blank out during these types of memory-related performances.” 

Another driver of academic stress is how students think about grades. Grades may damage a student’s self-esteem — diminishing  their perception of themselves. 

Sydney R-D. ‘25 claimed that “for some, [grades] become validation — impactful things that can determine futures, and measurements of worth.”

Students also have to face historically low college admissions rates. According to Admission Sight, a website designed to help students navigate the college admissions process, from 10 years until today, the number of accepted applicants in many colleges has been cut in half.  Students are working  much harder to get into selective colleges.

In an interview with The Gazette, Peggy Chan, the 10-grade dean, said she has “been a big proponent of trying to convince students that B’s are good grades.

“I do believe they are good grades and I am saddened by how so many students think that only A’s are (good grades),” Ms. Chan lamented.  “One of the reasons that Grace is trying to curb grade inflation a little bit is to deliver that message that A’s are not the default and are not what is expected from everyone. A’s shouldn’t be the default for students because not everyone is good at everything.”

As a member of the class of 2025, grades have made life more stressful than ever. Simple things like getting a test back or checking grades in the middle of a quarter can be anxiety-inducing. 

As grades become more important in our lives and futures, they can begin to encroach upon our self-esteem and cause us to superimpose our grades on a perception of ourselves and each other. One of the largest dangers of rising standards is that people may reduce themselves to their quantitative academic performance.