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School is Hard – Let’s Talk About It

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. School is so difficult. Being a student is so difficult. Even though we are surrounded by a myriad of people who think the same way, doesn’t mean their feelings are any less valid. So, let’s talk about it.

Struggles With Academic Validation

I was a huge try-hard growing up. It probably stems from the fact that my parents were first-generation immigrants, so the pressure to perform well in school was undeniable. But over time, I began to hold myself to a higher standard in a way they never had before.

I was in the fifth grade when I received an A- on a math test. I came home from school extremely distraught as I waited for the sound of the garage door to open, signalling that my mom had finally come home. When I broke the news to her, she was probably just as confused as I was. How can a ten-year-old get so upset over a few word problems?

The answer to that question is academic validation. As I got older, the satisfying feeling of receiving good grades continued to fuel my work ethic (and my stress). I would set deadlines for myself weeks in advance of an assignment’s actual due date. I would panic over every lost mark on a quiz that was only worth 1% of my grade. It was an unhealthy obsession over a few decimal points that made up my GPA. 

I knew I had to stop. It was no longer the school work that was difficult, but the unachievable standards that I had set for myself. So, I decided to let go of them––and needless to say, it was easier said than done. 

Caring about school is important, but I used to care too much. Don’t get me wrong – I still make sure to do the weekly discussion posts and proofread my essays before handing them in. I just won’t be too hard on myself over losing a few marks here and there. In the long run, it probably won’t matter that much, right?

Stress Is Stress – No Matter What You Study

I’m not saying that my BA degree is just as hard as a mechanical engineering degree. It’s not. When choosing my program of study, I purposely pursued one that correlated with my strengths to limit the level of difficulty I would have to face. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed. 

Sometimes, I feel guilty expressing my struggles in school because other people have it way harder. I don’t have 30 hours of class a week. I don’t have five midterms to study for. I don’t have 50 math equations to solve before the next class. So who am I to complain?

I’ve come to realize that all stress is valid. Sure, it’s not difficult for me to pick up on concepts in lectures, but having several assignments due in the same week is, in fact, stressful. And that stress shouldn’t be undermined just because everyone is also stressed. 

Being Busy Is Romanticized

Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like just to have school and no other commitments. What would it feel like if I didn’t have to open Canva every few days in order to ensure the Instagram page I run for an extra-curricular club stays active? And how would it feel if I didn’t have a part-time job to go to after a long day of lectures, assignments and readings? 

Don’t get me wrong – I know I signed up for this. I’m the one who applied to the position, interviewed for the position and, ultimately, accepted the position. But why is being busy so normalized? And why does it feel like it’s even being romanticized? As a student, you’re expected to be more than a student. If you don’t have any extra-curricular commitments or internships under your belt, are you even going to graduate on time?

In a field like journalism, you must have a full portfolio of bylines in the school paper or campus magazine before you can even think about applying for your first entry-level position. And if you’re a business major, you better spend countless hours networking with industry professionals so your resume doesn’t get lost among the hundreds of candidates. 

I think it’s also important to mention that not everyone has the luxury of focusing solely on their involvement in school because of how expensive education really is. Student debt is real and not everyone can afford OSAP loans right after graduation. So, work often comes before school, making it that much harder to perform well.

No One Talks About It

The point of this article isn’t just to complain about how the school system failed us (although, it did feel quite therapeutic to vent). Instead, it’s to point out that school is difficult and that there is no shame in talking about it. Just because everyone has classes to attend, assignments to finish and jobs to see to, doesn’t mean the struggle isn’t any less real. So, let’s talk about it.

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Jessica Ho

Toronto MU '24