By, Caroline Hearle
For Winsor students, the word “school” has a seemingly natural tie to the word “stress.” After attending Winsor for almost five years, I have many opinions on the impact and atmosphere of an academically competitive school. Winsor prides itself on challenging students and ensuring that its graduates are prepared for whatever faces them in the “real world.” In my experience, the biggest challenge that Winsor poses is maintaining a low stress level. Amid all of Winsor’s amazing and positive attributes sits the unshakeable feeling that stress is part of the Winsor experience. Some of my classmates feel that their time at Winsor is only as legitimate as the stress they feel during it. I think that a lot of this anxiety comes from students’ thinking less of themselves because of how smart their friends are.
I hear classmates countless times a day reassuring friends that they are oblivious to their own strength and intelligence. But shouldn’t going to a competitive, demanding school be enough of a reminder? Why must we constantly remind our peers of the outstanding quality of their work? From English discussions to homeroom political debates to calculus problem sets, the capability of Winsor students amazes me everyday. However, it is hard to maintain any level of confidence if students are constantly comparing themselves to others. I do not think that these comparisons stem from any grade’s bragging or comparing but simply from the admiration with which so many Winsor students regard their friends. Therefore, I think that the vast majority of students at Winsor place themselves at the bottom of the class. This unfair self-judgment makes Winsor a place full of the dumbest smart girls. We do not realize that being part of a community of smart and intelligent students means that we are capable of the work. If an entire school seems to be full of genius, amazing people, it seems that the natural conclusion would be that everyone is meant to be there, not that one person is the single outlier.
So why do Winsor students come to the stressful conclusion that they are barely getting by compared to their classmates? It is more probable that you will hear “I just bombed that” than “Phew! It’s over, and I think it went well.” In my opinion, stress and humility are two major factors. I think that the stress comes from the belief that if you do not feel challenged, there must be something wrong with you. Humility has become the impulsive reaction to any praise; we often shrug a good presentation or lab report off as a fluke and act undeserving of it. In reality, Winsor students put in more than enough effort to do well, and I think that every “good” grade and every hour of downtime is well earned. I think that Winsor would be considerably less stressful if students did not feel that they were constantly on the edge of failure and perpetually trailing behind their classmates. The change in students’ perceptions must come from within; instead of others telling us that we are smart, we have to tell ourselves.