Strictly Speaking: A Column


Elaina Martin, Editor-in-Chief


   One of my favorite things about attending online school is how I don’t have to listen to my classmates casually disguise complaints as subtle brags: complaining about a “low grade” when they got a 92 percent, complaining about how little sleep they got because they were studying (five hours straight into the night, so you can’t even begin to understand how tired they are), or bemoaning the immense responsibility to perform in their numerous extracurriculars — so, so many extracurriculars. 

   Believe me, we’re all sleep deprived. It’s not a f-ing contest. 

  For the record, I don’t consider myself to be on the morally high ground by any means, and I’m not excluding myself from this criticism. I have been very unreasonably hard on myself throughout high school: staying up for hours beyond what is healthy, studying obsessively to make up a few inconsequential percentage points to get that above 95 percent, and thereby promoting toxic academic competition culture. I used to tell myself that a B was as good as a failing grade and that getting into college would be impossible had I anything less than perfect straight A’s — both of which are immensely untrue and extraordinarily toxic mentalities to have. 

   I have nothing less than an abundance of resentment for the attitude I’ve had in the past towards academic performance. I know that in some ways, intense academic competition is a school survival skill. It can certainly encourage strong scholarly performance and help students find the motivation to care about school. But is it truly more helpful than harmful? The jury’s still out on that one. 

   Ultimately, I know we’re all trying to get into college and caring intensely about academic success is a great way to make that happen. Penultimately, caring about our mental health as students is a lot more important than giving ourselves brain damage just so we can brag about how little sleep we got (see how stupid that sounds?). 

   I can’t know for sure quite yet, but I believe that being able to not compare myself to others in college will be nothing short of paramount. I can’t imagine that toxic study culture is going to get better, knowing how high-achieving students are, so I’m going to have to dig deep and figure out how to do what is right for me. 

   Competition shouldn’t be a driving force in my desire to do well. It might be helpful sometimes, but for the most part, it only makes me anxious and negative, studying out of spite rather than for my own interest in academics. As I see it, academic competition can grow toxic very quickly and force us to lose sight of our responsibilities as students. We’re studying not to one-up each other, but to be successful. And as unique beings, we have to define that success for ourselves.