Recent years have seen a trend where parents push students into working hard in school, particularly in high school with the hope that such hard work will pay off through an admission to Ivy league schools. The push hinges on belief that admission to an Ivy league guarantees future financial, academic, and general success in life. The pressure, however, does not stop at academic performance, but also in career paths, which similar to the Ivy League success trope, will lead to guaranteed employment and financial success at the completion of training in the perceived career path. In light of such pressures on students despite constant changes in recruitment, questions, therefore, abound: does getting into an Ivy School guarantee success; what really is success; are students under too much pressure and what are the dangers of such pressures?
Much to the chagrin of many students, parents continually pressure high school students to study hard in the hope of getting admission to Ivy League or equally “prestigious” colleges. Many parents believe that admission and completion of education in an Ivy League or equivalent secures lifelong success to their children. Ideally, in pushing their children towards achieving such a feat, parents have the best interest of their children at heart. Moreover, many are the great names in business and other fields, who have turned out successful following their attendance of Ivy League schools and similarly prestigious colleges.
Does admission to such schools guarantee lifelong success? The answer is a resounding “NO!” While the quality of education and prestige of the qualification that come from attending such schools provide an advantage to its alumni, individual ability, potential, and drive in whatever venture or employment that one pursues or acquires after school play a huge role in future success of the graduate—Ivy school attendance notwithstanding. Even more is that some of the people thought to be the most successful in business, prominent in politics, policy, and government did not necessarily attend the elite colleges. The few who did attend the elite colleges did so after attending other non-elite colleges, making their way into the elite schools later in life. Ideally, the few individuals who attended the elite colleges did so later in their early 20s and 30s and not as teenager pressured by their parents and peers into working hard to secure admission into the elite schools.
Perhaps worth consideration is the fact that the Ivy League schools are ideally not the best colleges in the world. World university rankings place some of the best universities in the UK and Ireland, and while Ivy League schools make part of the list, other non-Ivy league schools also form part of the rankings. It is given that the reputation of the schools makes a difference, however, basing success on the mere attendance to an elite school is foolhardy. Hard work and dedication, in addition to good education, form the ingredients to individual success, and not merely attendance to an elite school.
In light of elite school attendance and success, worth interrogation is the very idea of success. The stereotypical idea of success is attending school, graduating, getting a well-paying job, a family, and perhaps affording to live in a good neighborhood while affording the best that life has to offer. For others, however, success means starting a venture that does well, brings profit, employs people, with the hope of regional or international expansion. For others, fame may mean success, even as happiness equates success for others. The ability to reach out and help the unfortunate get education, health care, decent housing, or settlement may mean success to others. Ideally, therefore, success is mainly subjective and dependent on the individual that defines it. Society today equates success to wealth and riches without necessarily considering other aspects of human life. One gets the consideration of being successful based on the car they drive, house they live in, clothes they wear, jobs they do, and their net worth. These are all aspects tied to the financial capability of the individual, and with them comes the pressure to prove to the society how much wealth one can accumulate. The pressure to look well-to-do has pushed many into illegal and dubious ventures, where some have not only lost their lives but freedom and humanity as well. Pegging success on finances alone is a skewed definition of success, which put unnecessary pressure on people.
Perhaps one of the most pressured group of people are high school students, who are under intense pressure to perform and gain admission to college; preferably Ivy League colleges. While most parents are happy to have their children pass and qualify to gain admission into college, the pressure to achieve this feat is constantly felt among students. Parents and the society today pressures students so much into performing. The expectation of parents and the society at large is that students should perform exceptionally in every discipline. Well-to-do parents expect their children to perform and attend the elite schools that they too attended, in addition to taking career paths the children may not necessarily have interest in as a way of securing their legacy. On the other hand, parents from disadvantaged backgrounds expect their children to perform, become successful (financially) and elevate them from their current (disadvantaged) positions.
The situation worsens for students given that they find the same pressure to perform from school. Teachers and peers constantly pressure students to perform. Parents’, teachers’ and peers’ pressure are not the only sources of pressure that students have to contend with; as the world gets more competitive given the limited opportunities, students are getting more pressured to achieve their goals in life. Exemplary academic or sports performance as the only way to a successful life is refrain students continually hear, essentially exacerbating their pressure.
Yet even as they continually put pressure on students, most parents and teachers overlook the dangers of such pressures. While pressure has become one of the known factors to affect a student’s life, the fact that it could lead to depression and anxiety has continually escaped the society. The pressure to perform put a heavy stressful load on students, which leads to depression and anxiety. Studies show that continued pressure on students have had a catastrophic toll on them, increasing the number of students with depression and suicide rate among teenagers. Suicide rates among teenagers in the US have surpassed homicide deaths, particularly for teenagers between 15 and 19 years (Vanorman and Jarosz n.p.). The spike in the number of suicides among teenagers is probably attributable to the constant pressure to perform that comes from the society, which then calls for remedial action if the teenagers are to get reprieve.
Vanorman, Alicia and Jarosz, Beth. Suicide Replacing Homicides as Second-Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Teenagers. PRB, 2016. https://www.prb.org/suicide-replaces-homicide-second-leading-cause-death-among-us-teens/