Under pressure: Living with high expectations as a high school student


Photo by Kamryn Snyder

Maintaining grades throughout the course of high school is a source of stress for many students.

An individual with the drive to succeed is willing to put forth great effort and perseverance in order to achieve their goals. Many young people have prodigious goals paired with an extensive list of accomplishments that they wish to fulfill. For many, immense goals come as a package deal with high expectations, whether that pressure is internal, parental, or societal. Lots of students take on a vigorous workload made up of challenging classes, several extracurricular activities, the responsibility of a job, and more. As a result, kids can have difficulty balancing every aspect and not becoming overwhelmingly stressed. Parents can have a strong influence towards the level of expectations that each student feels. Eric Bostrom, father of East High junior Annika Bostrom and freshmen Soren Bostrom, elaborates on college, a critical component that contributes to the expectations that some parents have for their children.
”If parents are committed to paying for their children’s college education, but they know how expensive it is, they might put extra pressure on their child to excel, to help them be in a place where they can earn a scholarship,” Eric Bostrom said.
Many high school students, especially upperclassmen, feel a lot of pressure to maintain a high GPA and a high ACT score in order to earn scholarships and be accepted into a quality college. The misconceptions and stigma that surrounds attending a community college often drive lots of students to apply to larger, more expensive universities. In public and private non-profit universities, tuition has increased by 65% and 50% since 2000. Annika Bostrom, a junior at East, reflects on the stress that college finance pressure can cause for students.
“With college tuition just getting higher, the pressures to study more so that you can get scholarships to help pay for college are increasing,” Annika Bostrom said. “Also to get a job to start saving, and learn about FAFSA and loans, it can all be really overwhelming and stressful.”
The pressure to live up to an older sibling can also be a source of stress for students, especially if they have been successful academically. Comparison between siblings can result in parents increasing their expectations. Despite all of these stressors, learning how to manage your time well by adapting time management skills can help relieve the stress caused by high expectations. It’s important to learn how to take time for yourself, in the midst of whatever may be going on.
“Freshman year when I had my knee surgeries I basically couldn’t do anything,” Annika Bostrom said. “I learned to manage my time really well…and I learned that taking breaks is important.”
Using your free time to engage in activities or pastimes that bring you joy are extremely beneficial. Whether that is exercise, playing a sport, spending time with friends or family, reading, or even watching TV. Getting plenty of sleep every night is also a critical step in ensuring that stress levels don’t increase. Sleep is imperative to brain function as it promotes memory, attention, physical, and emotional health. Acknowledging your successes, big or small, and learning from your failures or setbacks will also aid in the process of coping with high expectations. Knowing where your expectations come from, whether they’re internal, from family, or society, will help in deciding whether they are worthwhile goals to pursue. Challenge yourself, but also learn your limits. Using your high expectations and pressure as a motivator is an incredible life-skill that can help anyone accomplish their goals. We all encounter expectations and pressure in our lives, but how we choose to respond determines our success.