Under Pressure


Carley Walker, Staff Writer

Carley Walker Opinion Writer

Junior Finola Summerville has always been high achieving with plans of a bright future in her forefront. As a high honors student, she consistently has her priorities in order, extracurriculars in line, and the drive to work hard and play hard. Teachers and students alike adore Summerville because she is often seen as the “model student.”

Yet, despite what many of her peers believe, Summerville is just as susceptible to the pressures of high school; whether that implies the pressure put on her by peers, teachers, or the high school community, it is not easy to avoid. 

Being a high school student is a handful. The collective stress caused by constant assignments, extracurriculars, studying for standardized tests, while maintaining a healthy social life can cause any student to reach their breaking point.

In the Lake Forest community being a high school student can be even more overwhelming than a typical high school experiece. Because of the affluence of the Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Knollwood communities, students have been held to a higher standard for their performance in academics, sports, extra-curriculars, or anything else they may partake in. 

Many Lake Forest parents have found successs in the fields of medicine, government, and business, with a fair amount also holding degrees from nationally acclaimed colleges. 

Or, some families living in Lake Forest may have lived in the community through multiple generations and created a name for themselves within the area. Due to the legacy some students believe they must uphold, it makes it harder for them to excel because they have been pressured to follow in their parents or siblings footsteps; or some families are well known in the community that certain teachers and coaches know the students, causing the students believing they must maintain a clean, spotless reputation. 

“Lake Forest High School has a toxic atmosphere in regards to the pressure and responsibility students take on,” said social worker Dan Maigler.

And, the pressure to succeed “doesn’t just come from parents, but from peers as well,” Maigler elaborates. 

Whether it be in the form of a report card or by the amount of first place awards adorning a Lake Forest family’s shelf, students constantly feel as if somebody’s eyes are always on them. ”

Regardless of where it stems from, the pressure is everywhere in Lake Forest. Whether it be in the form of a report card or by the amount of first place awards adorning a Lake Forest family’s shelf, students constantly feel as if somebody’s eyes are always on them. 

When students compare themselves to others, they can reach a breaking point or develop bad habits or poor coping mechanisms. The comparisons students constantly feel subjected to not only include academics, but sports as well. More often than not, students participate in sports they don’t necessarily want to play because a teacher said they should, or their friend pressured them into it. 

In regards to academics, students take classes they feel they have to take instead of the classes they want to take. A bright student may feel obligated  to take AP Calculus BC over a different lower level class, but they feel the need to take BC Calc because everyone, including colleges, view it to be the “smarter” or “better” class to take. 

For Summerville, the expectation to always be a high achieving student and taking the most challenging classes is put on by her by the competitive nature at LFHS.

“I 100% feel pressured to take certain classes at the high school. I definitely believe we are lucky to have so many honors and AP classes, but people can get way too competitive. Sometimes, I feel as if I have to make sure my course load is as difficult as possible in order to be up to par with my peers, even if I don’t necessarily want to take a certain class.” 

Junior Celeste Tomaselli said she feels if she doesn’t take the harder classes, her peers won’t think as highly of her. 

“I feel a lot of pressure to take AP and honors courses because I feel if I don’t, I’m not on the same level as the people around me. If I’m not in a math class that is two levels above the average math for my grade, ‘I’m bad at math,’ or if I don’t take calculus as a senior, ‘I won’t get into college’ which is a false statement,” said Tomaselli.

Taking the classes students want to take are far more important than taking the classes they feel they must take because of the competitive nature of LFHS, or because of the pressures teachers put on the students. 

“It’s your education and people should not be able to influence you into taking certain classes, or certain levels of classes. Not taking an honors english class? You’re fine. Not taking physics? You’re fine. Take the classes that are at your level and that you are interested in… This took me until junior year to figure out. Realizing the reality of high school earlier will make things 100% easier. Trust me on that,” said junior Tegan Heswall.

In order to truly succeed in high school, the classes a student chooses to take should properly suit the student based on the rigor of the material, the student’s interest, and whether the student can handle the course load for the course. The most beneficial classes a student will take is determined by how well suited the student is, and how much they desire to be in the course.

Too many students in high school, especially at LFHS, compare themselves to other students and are more inclined to take courses that are more than they can handle. But, in reality, so many factors separate students from one another and no college wants to pick from a handful of carbon copies. 

Students commonly feel pressured to say yes to every class offered to them. For example, if a counselor says that a student would be a great fit for AP Chemistry, most likely, the student will oblige, even if the student doesn’t want to take the course. Students need to know it is okay for them to say no, and to not feel pressured into taking a certain class because it is more rigorous or has the possibility of looking better on a college application. That is probably one of the greatest lessons a student will learn throughout high school.

Choosing classes for next year’s schedule is coming up for students at LFHS. As an LFHS student myself, I believe the most important thing to remember when meeting with your counselor is to ask yourself: Do you truly believe you are fit to a certain course and are passionate about it? Or are you really succumbing to the pressure and expectations put on to you by the student body, staff, and the community in Lake Forest?