Self-initiated competition is harming students rather than helping

When it comes to standardized testing, there’s no shortage of controversy.  From “I don’t test as well under a time limit” to “The questions are irrelevant to what I will be studying in college,” I’ve heard numerous arguments from my peers about how SAT and ACT testing is the wrong way to evaluate knowledge and preparation for academics at the college level. As I wrap up the end of my junior year, the competitiveness surrounding test scores remains omnipresent and expectations only continue to rise for what’s considered an “acceptable” score to get into a good college. Although many of my peers say they wish there was less of a stigma surrounding standardized test scores, the rivalry between students is what is causing this undesired stigma.

Competitiveness at Redwood contributes to unnecessary anxiety and stress on students. This can take place in many forms, but occurs most commonly through intrusive probing about test scores. I am asked at least once a day by a classmate, “What did you get?” regarding a test, or “How did you do?” referring to a class project. These questions may seem harmless, but they add intense pressure on students. Often times, I feel the need to lie or say my score hasn’t been posted yet because my score isn’t as great as that of my peers.

This same stressful process occurs when SAT and ACT scores are posted. Students want to be represented as more than a number, yet act as if their score is the only thing determining their future. I think that it’s impressive how hard students work to achieve their academic goals, but when it comes to the feelings of others, it’s important to recognize that everyone’s scores and results are private to themselves.

Privacy of standardized test scores is crucial, especially when stress about doing well is already extremely high. The American Psychological Association’s annual stress survey reported that 31 percent of teens felt overwhelmed and another 30 percent felt sad or depressed as a result of school-related activities including standardized tests. Additional self-created emphasis about what scores are socially acceptable at Redwood is not helpful in any way, and creates unreachable standards. Especially during junior year, students feel the need to get a tutor and work twice as hard to not only achieve higher scores but just to one-up their peers. I was not planning on getting tutoring for taking the ACT, but when my friend told me that “everyone else gets a tutor,” I felt I needed one too in order to compete with other students. Although I felt that having a tutor wasn’t completely necessary or all that helpful, I imagined I would be at a disadvantage without one because I wasn’t putting in the extra effort to get a perfect score.

Illustration by Emma Carpenter

The majority of students are competing with each other’s test scores and GPAs in order to reach an end goal: college. Although working hard to get the grades and the standardized test scores you want is important to get into college, they are not everything that determines success. According to collegevine, a student mentorship and college admissions consulting site, when colleges attempt to define their success as a school, they tend to stick with factors that can be quantified and compared more easily. Commonly used measures of success include GPA, standardized test scores and graduation rates. Although higher standardized test scores do show a correlation with higher acceptance rates into college, it’s more important for students to dial in and focus more on what path they will take later on in life to achieve their goals. Instead of wasting one’s time in high school concentrating on GPAs and standardized test scores, students should spend time preparing for what they will be studying in the next chapter of their lives.

To some, junior year may seem like a pivotal year for boosting GPAs and test scores in order to perfect college applications. I believe putting in one’s full effort junior year is beneficial, yet it’s also essential for students to remember not to lose track of their mental health and well being. Making memories and supporting friends throughout high school is more important in the long run than constantly competing over grades. According to, There is a correlation between excessive competition and mental health issues that outweigh the benefits of student rivalry over grades.  

Next time Eschool is updated, kindly refrain from blurting out scores and adding to the already stress-filled environment of Redwood. Schools will continue using test scores to evaluate students, but Redwood students have the opportunity to prove that SAT composite scores and test percentages don’t define them as human beings. In order to prove this, students must reevaluate what they wish to remember most in their high school experience.