From fruit snacks to apples to chips, elementary school lunchtime shenanigans often have kids comparing what they have to eat that day. This idea of comparing each other stays with these children as they grow. Far too many high school students compare their grades to other students, which is detrimental to their self-esteem and confidence.
Mia Cavwey, a junior at Key West High School (KWHS), shared that she often compares her grades to other students in her classes. “I compare my grades to others quite often.” Cavwey elaborated, “Comparing my grades to others negatively affects mental health. It makes me think I’m not trying or doing good in my classes. I take more online courses than I probably should, just to keep my GPA high and keep up with the top students in my grade.” For some reason, many students create this connection between having the best grades and self-worth.
Another junior at KWHS, Aleksandra Turek, expressed how she also makes these connections. “Comparing my grade to others impacts my mental health because I never see myself as good enough. I constantly compare myself with someone who has done better than me and never allow myself to appreciate and be proud of the grade I’ve gotten. It’s caused me to have a lower appreciation for myself and lower my self-esteem.” Turek continued, “It has made me less enthusiastic about learning because I no longer do it for myself, but to have the higher grade in comparison to others. “
Alexander Wilson, a senior at KWHS, agreed with both Cavwey and Turek that grades can be the basis of a decrease in self-esteem and mental health. “I think the school system and society as a whole pressure us to use numerical values to judge our entire worth. Although I think it’s incredibly inefficient and damaging, I’m guilty of it too. Our grades don’t define the successful things we do or the content of our character, but we still treat them as such.”
Wilson, however, offered an alternative ideology than the one held by most high school students. “I think comparing grades with people other than ourselves denies us the ability to rejoice in our own growth. Instead of looking at how my friends and I did on some tests, we should look at where we started and how much we’ve learned since then, but most of the time that doesn’t happen. We instead end up beating ourselves up for not knowing some finite fact about devolution or some other subject.”
Comparing grade point averages and test scores damages students’ minds. Grades should not be what each individual student bases their worth and mental health on, but countless do. This must be stopped because it is evident that comparing causes harm.