Raising children to be successful is a priority for many parents and guardians. This involves regularly planning their future and doing what it takes to get there academically. While this can be productive and encourage kids to aim high, the cycle of always looking ahead in one’s academic life can be harmful. Many young adults go through a tremendous amount of academic pressure to get good grades, get into a prestigious college, and prepare for a successful career. Here, we’ll examine academic pressure, its causes and effects, and some of the most effective coping strategies.
What is Academic Pressure?
Academic pressure is “the tension, discomfort, and other emotions caused by the pressure from school, family, and society in the learning process [*].”
From an early age, children are highly encouraged or sometimes even required by parents, guardians, or educators to think ahead and achieve academic milestones. This pattern of constantly anticipating the next step can be stressful for students, thus resulting in tension, discomfort, and other negative emotions.
While it is common for young students to be motivated by mild academic pressure, many also have negative experiences with such pressure, especially if it is in excess. Part of a young person’s development through adolescence is learning how to balance the demands of life, and academic pressure can end up hindering one’s growth.
Causes of Academic Pressure on Students
There are several causes of academic pressure on students, including the following:
- Pressure from parents or guardians. Though this is usually well-intentioned, it is quite common for parents and guardians to be one of the sources of a student’s academic pressure. Parents and guardians often want the best for their children and, in turn, place extra pressure on them to excel in school.
- Pressure from heavy coursework. A student may also feel academic pressure from heavy coursework. It can be stressful to handle many difficult assignments from different classes all at once. The demands of each class may vary but can contribute to academic stress and pressure.
- Pressure from poor organization and time management. Students are still honing their skills in adolescence, so it is not uncommon to find teenagers who cannot manage their time or organize their priorities very well.
- Pressure from exams. Tests, exams, and any kind of assessment can put a lot of pressure on young people to perform well.
- Pressure from the self. Living in a culture focused on performance also creates intense competition, which can manifest as academic pressure in adolescents who internalize it.
- Pressure from other external sources. Many external factors can influence how much academic pressure a student experiences, such as the increasingly competitive nature of getting accepted into a good university. For instance, a student may observe that their friends excel in their studies, which can pressure them to perform well academically.
Signs That a Student is Experiencing Excessive Academic Pressure
Academic pressure is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be beneficial in pushing students to rise to challenges in the academic world. However, it can be detrimental in excess. Here are the signs that a student is experiencing excessive academic pressure:
- Extreme competitiveness
- Obsession with grades
- Working constantly
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inability relaxing
- Abusing stimulants (e.g., caffeine, prescription medications, etc.)
- Refusal to socialize
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed pastimes
Effects of Academic Pressure on Students
Exactly how does academic pressure affect students? Here are the various ways:
A student may notice the following changes in their physical health following bouts of academic pressure:
- Loss in appetite
- Frequent headaches
- Gastrointestinal issues
These physical symptoms indicate excessive stress and should be addressed immediately [*].
Academic pressure can also affect one’s mental health. Excessive academic pressure can cause the following:
- Poor sleep quality
- Substance use
- High levels of stress and burnout
Social and Relationships
Studies have found that academic pressure significantly affects adolescents’ problem behavior through parent-child conflict while also affecting subjective well-being [*]. This results in deviant behavior such as disruptions in sleep cycles, experimenting with sexual activity, and substance use.
Too much academic pressure may also lead to detrimental effects on students’ relationships. Some develop a highly competitive nature, which may cause friction with peers. Isolating oneself to strive for academic excellence may also lead to feelings of loneliness.
Coping Strategies for Academic Pressure
Excessive academic pressure may have negative effects, but there are coping strategies students can use to combat it.
- Arrange a study group: This can be especially helpful if a student isn’t motivated by a subject. It helps to reward oneself after completing each section of the module or chapter.
- Work in a café or library: The home or school environment can sometimes get distracting. Working somewhere quiet, like a nearby café or library, can help one focus and get work done.
- Request for assignments early: If students can get ahead of their work, then it may save them the trouble of stressing over assignments that pile up later on.
- Avoid comparing to others: It is easier said than done, but students should try not to judge themselves based on their friends’ and classmates’ goals and achievements. Adolescents can set their own goals and take pride in their hard work.
- Keep health in check: Maintaining good sleeping, eating, and exercise habits can significantly lower stress levels and help combat academic pressure.
- Maintain balance: A balanced lifestyle is essential to succeeding while maintaining physical and mental well-being. Aside from keeping healthy, students can do things like spend time with friends, engage in their favorite hobbies, and make time to rest. Forming these habits now will be useful for life after school.
- Remember what matters: Parents and guardians can shape how academic pressure affects their children by focusing on what really matters. Adolescents who believe their parents or guardians value character traits more than achievement tend to show better mental health outcomes and lower risk-taking behaviors.
The Bottom Line
Excessive levels of academic pressure on students can lead to issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, and physical conditions like fatigue. While mild academic pressure is healthy and helpful, other negative effects of academic pressure on students are not to be underestimated. Using tools such as stress management worksheets can be helpful, but it is also important to address the root cause of academic pressure. The students of today are the future of tomorrow, so necessary steps must be taken to ensure their well-being.