Research in High School: Extracurricular Turned Extra Pressure

When I was 12, I moved to Long Island from southeast Georgia because of a job opportunity that my father received. I went to a school called the Scholars Academy, but I easily stayed at the top of my class. And then I moved to New York. My high school is one of the best public schools in the country, and the students acted accordingly.

I’ve met many people at BU who did and didn't do research in high school; some of them have been forced to write a simple research paper, while others have pursued full-fledged research projects outside of school. In my community back in Long Island, however, it was almost an unspoken requirement. If you didn’t do research outside of school, you weren’t going to get into the colleges you wanted to. You weren’t an ambitious or good student. As a result, I, personally, did two years of research in subjects I had little training in. Physics is not exactly my forte, but I spent five weeks during the summer before senior year poring over a very specialized sector of it for the sake of research.

My 10th grade sister is doing research as well and was in the school’s formal research program until very recently. The pressure was too much for her. She’s instead focusing on researching over the summer in a field she’s interested in, as she wants to go to medical school. I did the same, but in my experience, I still felt like what I was doing wasn’t enough. I listened to the research kids complain for four years, but I also saw them win awards in competitions I had not been attuned to. I feel as though, in communities like mine, the pressure to exceed expectations becomes equivalent to meeting them. Instead of doing extracurriculars based on interest or passion, many students overwork themselves because they feel like it’s the only way to succeed, which is a result of pressure from parents and peers.

While many students come out of high school accomplished, it’s also important to consider the detrimental effects of the inane and unrealistic standards set by parents and peers. They may not be worth the titles or awards.

 

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