Opinion: We need to continue to appreciate how far we’ve come

A follow up to an article published last year. Over the course of the past year, there has been a change in my mindset.

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Anna Wilkinson

There is a surplus amount of stress that is placed on students.

“This is a disgraceful way to reward hard-working students!! Those that work hard even through a challenge. They will not be given the opportunity to raise their freshmen GPA, essentially taking away college admissions chances.”

This was a comment that was posted under an opinion article I wrote last year about the school board’s decision to make the last semester of the 2019-20 school year credit/no credit instead of letter grades. There was a lot of debate around the board’s decision, but ultimately they decided to return to traditional A-F grades for the 2020-21 school year.

While I understand why we returned to letter grades, I don’t think most people understand how detrimental this is to most students’ mental health. 

Personally, this past year has been one of the most difficult academic years of my life. It has been the most challenging while simultaneously being the least rewarding year I have ever experienced. It feels like the harder I work, the only thing I get rewarded with is more work. I try and be sympathetic towards my teachers because I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to teach an entire subject to multiple classes on a tiny computer. Still, it feels like most of the work we receive is just busy work. 

The comment under my previous article made me think about how much pressure students face from the start of their high school career to be the best. This idea that a high GPA correlates to anything of actual value is ignorant. People, namely parents, glorify high grades and GPAs over students’ mental health. I have numerous friends who say that they can barely breathe under their parents’ constant pressure. It has come to a point where we have to consider if all of this pressure is worth it. 

Of course, very competitive colleges look for high GPAs and SAT/ACT scores for admission, but I believe that a degree is still a degree regardless of where it is earned. Some may write off this phrase as something that students who have poor grades say to validate themselves, but I believe it is true. Maybe one school is considered more impressive to attend, but I know many people who went to schools like Harvard and Duke and have the same job as people who went to schools that are profiled as bad schools.

This year, I noticed tons of assiduous students who had exceptional grades rejected from colleges with 50-60% acceptance rates, or what they considered as their safety schools. It doesn’t matter how good a friend they are or how hard they worked during each semester if their overall statistics didn’t meet many of these schools’ standards. 

Last year, I wrote about the number of people who died due to COVID-19 and how the change from letter grades to credit/no credit was an insignificant problem in comparison, and I think that is still accurate. Every day I try to remember that I need to be thankful for being in a safe environment at home and having resources to learn, but it feels like all life consists of right now is school.

It is not fair to place this immense pressure on students while also expecting their mental health to be, well, healthy. I know so many people who have consumed themselves in their school work or GPAs for the entirety of this year and aren’t happy. Some have told me they haven’t felt happy this entire year for more than ten minutes.

As the school year is coming to an end, it is important to remember the sentiment from the article I wrote last year; we need to be thankful for our futures. Your happiness outweighs any academic validation you may be trying to gain.

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