Staff editorial – Why comparing yourself to others academically simply does not work

We doubt there are many students at Mason who haven’t complained about Mason’s competitive culture.

A culture that strives to carve out the perfect “cookie-cutter” student. A model student with straight-As, perfect scores, leadership, awards, etc. Seems like some sort of package deal.

Now, this pressure is present for almost all high-school students. But in a school of 3600+ kids, this pressure can be amplified. For a lot of us, it’s weird to see our peers grow up and become, well, themselves.

We see our peers become parts of groups/cliques and feed into a system that doesn’t seem as inclusive anymore, rather quite “toxic.”

Many seniors have started the college application processes. The college admissions process is based on this idea of competition and of comparing students to each other. Thus, creating some sort of “trap” we all fall into.

Suddenly these kids we grew up with become our greatest “competition.”

We get indulged in who has the better scores, the better grades, who are applying to what schools, and spend heaps of our time dedicated to college reaction videos, stats videos, Naviance, College Confidential, etc.

This is only one example of how indulgence in comparison is a source of toxicity. Suddenly we degrade ourselves when others flaunt their grades, scores, whatever. We feel unworthy of aiming as high as others, and this isn’t true for just college.

But when we are exposed to this competitive culture, we start to directly question ourselves. We over-extrapolate certain points of other peoples’ lives and begin to apply all of that to our own lives. We raise ourselves to unrealistic expectations to reach a realistic goal.

Like when the class does extremely well on an algebra test and you didn’t. This doesn’t make you any less of a person. There was most likely a reason you didn’t perform as well, whether it was lacking studying, test anxiety, or just a bad day.

But if you over-indulge in this single failure, compartmentalization becomes incredibly difficult. It becomes difficult to attribute the source of this mishap. You put your failures on your wrong-doings as a person, not as a math student. The nearly-obsessive competitive portion of you as a student makes you think you’re incapable…when you are simply not.
Nothing is wrong with you or with us.

Academic success comes down to preparation and hard work. That’s how the system is built. And yes, there are some who “luck out” and do well on a test without preparing or those who roll out of bed one morning and get perfect scores.

But in the long run, academic success isn’t just defined by good grades. It’s also defined by the habits and dedication we put in, habits that will serve us for a lifetime, habits that will help us reach our goals.

No one found their success in life by rolling out of bed one morning.

Chances are, they probably worked extremely hard to reach their goals. And they probably failed many times. Some of them probably failed so much that there was no room left for failure.

Resilience can take us a lot further than natural ability can.

It’s difficult for us as people to not bring ourselves down when we fail or try to rationalize why someone else did well and we didn’t.

We can’t be afraid of surrendering to our weaker abilities. We can’t have a mental breakdown on one end or act like everything is fine on the other. We must surrender and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, even if it hurts.

Accepting one’s fault or identifying the source(even if it is out of our control) is how we grow. It’s common logic. Accepting faults opens our minds to creating new ideas or working harder so that fault doesn’t happen again.