The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Work to the top till you drop

Students need to find balance to live fulfilling high school lives
Crystal Cheng
Monta Vista students often feel pressured by the high academic standards the school holds.

After the class bell rings to start class, an MVHS classroom on a test day is filled with the sounds of stifled yawns, the shuffling of papers and hushed conversations. 

“Did you study?” 

“I was so stressed last night, I didn’t even get a chance. I’m going to fail this.” 

“I studied till 3 a.m. last night, I’m running on no sleep right now.” 

This becomes a recurring trend within the walls of MVHS, as students get in the habit of using any means necessary to perform well in an academic environment, compromising on sleep or mental health just for a few extra points.

It is a commonly recognized fact that MVHS is renowned for academic rigor and competitiveness in comparison to the rest of the nation. According to US News, MVHS ranks #13 out of the best high schools in California, and #105 out of a staggering 23,499 high schools across the nation. Furthermore, according to Niche, MVHS offers 19 AP courses with a 96% AP Exam pass rate, which heavily boosts its student college readiness score.

Many are aware of the infamous high-stress environment cultivated by MVHS’s high standards that pressure students to always excel and eliminate any room for failure. Students often feel an intrinsic need to compare themselves to their peers, resulting in a cycle of disappointment and a lack of confidence as to whether their grades and extracurriculars are enough. Many take classes they don’t want to take just to add another AP to their list and rack up leadership positions and extracurricular activities so that they feel better about themselves in comparison to their peers, while those who don’t partake in this may feel guilty and stressed that they might be falling behind and aren’t on par with those around them. According to a survey of 138 students, 78% stated that they felt pressured to compare themselves to their peers. The high academic standards MVHS holds also influence students to develop a workaholic culture with the end goal of getting into a good college. Surrounded by peers and social media posts constantly talking about these methods working, students often feel that their dreams of getting into a prestigious college will be within reach if they pursue opportunity after opportunity, accruing accomplishments just for their applications.

Graphic by Sagnik Nag Chowdhury

But once they do succeed and the college acceptance letters start rolling in, many seniors give up; with nothing left to work for, there’s no point trying to be good students beyond maintaining grades to avoid getting rescinded. Students who previously lived according to the standards of MVHS have a 180-degree shift in mindset, abandoning almost everything in their past workload. In an El Estoque article in 2020, Physics teacher Jim Birdsong voiced his concerns about senioritis, explaining how he feels that the actions of second-semester seniors aren’t justified.

“No one’s looking, so why are you acting different?” Birdsong said. “If you act different when no one’s looking, then you’ve been faking it the whole time. You’re not really a good student if you only do it [to] get the reward.”

The cause of this prevalent senioritis is that MVHS students wait to live their lives until after college applications are over, but this becomes a lost cause fairly quickly. Not only is the one semester left of high school not anywhere near enough to reap the benefits of their past seven semesters of hard work, but students simply become too exhausted to have the fun they could only dream of for the past 3 years. Desperately, they try to seek some type of payoff for the past years of blood, sweat and tears, and end up claiming senioritis as their rightful reward. 

Furthermore, while students think that they will be free of MVHS’s academic environment once they leave for college, the effects continue to permeate through the lasting mindset that relaxation comes after surviving the academic rigor of this school. A Medium article written by a student from the Bay Area in 2016 said, “I always see a lot of Bay Area kids going crazy at parties and raves because they never had the chance to do so in high school, and because they never had the chance to live a little. It’s literally taking the ‘work hard now, have fun later’ mantra to an uncomfortable extreme.” As we shoulder the burden of our heavy workloads, it’s no wonder that so many students find themselves falling off the deep end after entering college, desperately trying to experience the joys they deprived themselves of during high school.  To add on, studies have shown that the effects of this deprivation can lead to declining mental health and building negative habits. A study from the National Library of Medicine showed that students from wealthier communities, who are exposed to higher-ranking academic environments, are more likely to become addicted to alcohol and other substances.

Ultimately, the workaholic mindset we’ve collectively adopted at MVHS causes negative effects not only while we attend this school, but beyond graduation as well. By living our lives only for college applications and achievements and pushing ourselves to our limits, we deprive ourselves of a truly fulfilling high school experience and eventually experience burnout. We know MVHS is competitive and toxic. We’ve accepted that it’s rigorous and cutthroat, but we don’t do anything about it. In our apathy, we remain part of the problem and fall victim to the consequences.

But it’s time to create change, starting with our individual mindsets. We need to find a way to create a balance between academic rigor and being normal teenagers. We need to find time to relax and have fun all throughout high school, instead of pushing it off until the second semester of senior year. We need to stop defining ourselves by our achievements and stop living life for college applications, and instead take advantage of high school as the opportunity to explore and find our true passions that it should be. 

Besides the numbers associated with MVHS that set the high, stressful standards we define ourselves with, it’s also important to look at the aspects of MVHS that make it a uniquely passionate and diverse school. We are home to 85 student-run clubs, 54 sports teams, 4 distinctly strong performing arts programs and lastly, endless opportunities and electives on campus to help you find your interests and make your experience at this school a positively memorable one. There is so much more to MVHS than just academics, and as a student community, if we don’t find a way to live our lives during the prime years of our education, we are doomed to face an unsatisfactory end to an experience we could have made much more rewarding.

About the Contributors
Sagnik Nag Chowdhury
Sagnik Nag Chowdhury, Opinion Editor
Sagnik Nag Chowdhury is currently a junior and an opinion editor for El Estoque. In his free time, he likes watching TV, biking with his friends, trying new foods and discovering new places in Cupertino.
Crystal Cheng
Crystal Cheng, Opinion Editor
Crystal Cheng is currently a senior and an Opinion editor for El Estoque. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, annihilating Stardew Valley and bullet journaling.
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