Pressure to take hard classes is harmful: make balancing academic achievement, student well-being priority


Photo by Liora Perkins '25

Academic pressure is extremely prevalent at Staples, harming students’ self-worth and confidence. Academic stress can derive from a desire for perfection, parental pressure, sports commitments or a heavy class load. All of these factors can be due to taking classes that are too hard.

At Staples, it’s pretty well known that we place a significant amount of value on academic achievement. For me, the pressure to excel in school has only become increasingly prevalent as I began high school, setting unrealistic expectations that I need to take a million AP classes or else I will not get into college. 

As I sat down with my guidance counselor in March to choose which courses to take next year, my mind was rejecting the idea of having a balanced schedule, reminding me that I needed to take the hardest classes possible. Where did this idea come from? I know which classes would be realistic for me, but somehow my mind was refusing the fact that I don’t need to take every  rigorous class available. 

The idea that all students need to take the hardest classes Staples has to offer, is extremely unrealistic and harmful to people’s self-worth. The reality is that not every student learns the same.

— Liora Perkins ’25

But this is not to say that these classes are harmful for everyone. On the one hand, taking hard classes can provide you with a sense of accomplishment in your abilities. These classes offer a fast-paced approach and an intellectual challenge, which can be personally rewarding for those who are up to the task. Additionally, taking difficult classes can help prepare students for college and future jobs, where critical thinking and problem-solving skills are valued.  

However, the pressure to take hard classes can also have some detrimental effects on students. The pressure to excel academically can lead to stress and anxiety, which can have a significant impact on students’ mental and physical health. 

The pressure for students to take difficult classes can create a sense of competition among students, which can be toxic and counterproductive. Students may feel as though they need to take the hardest classes in order to be considered successful or intelligent, leading them to push themselves beyond their limits and neglect other areas of their lives. 

Overall, while taking hard classes can be beneficial in many ways, the idea that all students are up for the challenge is unrealistic. It’s important for educators and parents to encourage students to challenge themselves, but not at the expense of their mental or physical health. Ultimately, academic success should not be measured solely by the difficulty of the course, but by the growth and development that a student experiences.