Scholastic strain

Student considers the real weight of class rank


Anna Haley

Studies show that as of 2022, an average of 75% of high school students struggle with the stress of school. It’s a crushing weight for so many students and is only amplified with the added pressure of class rank.

Story by Sophie Keller, Webmaster

A student sits at their desk. The moon high in the sky, bags hanging beneath blurring eyes. Glancing at a too bright screen, the clock reads midnight. Sighing, they turn back to their task. It’s just an average night. It’s just a fading grip on sanity. It’s just the price that must be paid.

Year after year there are the select few who think they have what it takes to be at the top. They plan and they plan and they plan: What class is worth it? What class will give them that needed boost? What class do they sacrifice? So much effort is put into the pursuit of that top spot before school has actually even begun. Yet despite this, no amount of planning can truly prepare students for the mental strain this ambition will put them through.

After freshman year, students find out just how high—or low—they are on the ranking. They find out if they actually have a chance or if they can just relax and watch everyone else slowly unravel, being crushed from the weight of it all.

Parents will tell you that being number one is a necessity. Academic advisors will tell you it’s the gamechanger for colleges. Everyone else will tell you the truth: it’s not worth it. 

So much pressure is put on students once they climb into that top one percent. Suddenly, that seemingly unachievable goal is within reach if you’re just willing to work for it. If you’re willing to sacrifice your time, sleep and sanity.

And that’s exactly what they do. Day in and day out, these students work tirelessly to understand the concept a little better than the rest, just to score a few points higher on that test. But, it’s never enough.

Oftentimes people are able to hide just how great of a toll this stress takes on them. No energy? Caffeine. Dark circles? Make-up. Tears? Just hold them in until you’re alone. They’ve mastered the art of faking it until they make it because they have to. Because otherwise people start asking uncomfortable questions. Questions you can’t just laugh off because laughing will cause the tears to fall. They’ll see through the facade you’re so desperately trying to hold up, to keep from crumbling.

During those long nights spent studying until your vision blurs, you tell yourself that it will all be worth it in the end. Once you see that tiny little number printed on the bottom of your transcript,—the ink staining it into existence—the stress will vanish, the pressure will be lifted. 

But that’s not true.

It’s not over just because you’ve reached the top. You may have stopped climbing, but now you have to hold on for dear life because even one slip up, one second of slacking, could cause you to fall. The pressure remains an ever present reminder that this burden you’ve chosen to carry could crush you at any moment. 

Mental health is sacrificed to reach this goal that was pushed onto you. You think that having that number one will be enough to hold the strain, to make everything worth it. But the truth is, that number is just a line, a stick trying to hold up a mountain of worries and emotions—all the things we’ve been hiding. We think that it will help us to hold this burden that we’ve been carrying, and so we relax. We think it’s finally over.

However, that line—that stick—will eventually snap once too much strain is put on it, and it will do nothing to protect you when everything finally comes crashing down. The only thing you can truly rely on is someone else gladly pushing you out of the way, eager to take up your spot, no idea of the weight they must now hold.