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Virtual Family Blog: Race to Nowhere And Academic Pressure

I just saw the film Race to Nowhere, a documentary about academic pressures and stresses hurting our kids. I just kept wondering whether you are represented in this documentary. The kids featured in this movie were so overwhelmed that they were experiencing physical and emotional problems. The stress was causing anxiety, depression and physical problems such as headaches and stomachaches for some of the kids. They felt intense pressure to do everything and to do it best.

I hope that I am not oblivious, but you seem fine to me. You seem to do your schoolwork and enjoy your extracurriculars, but maybe I am completely missing something. Ryan and Amnon, are you overwhelmed with academic stress? Devan, did you feel tremendous pressure in high school? Do you feel you are under a lot of pressure and stress to succeed? To take advanced and honors courses, to participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible?

Race to Nowhere focuses on the pressure imposed by parents, society and the college admissions process. Where does your pressure come from? You? Me and dad? Teachers? Coaches? Everyone?


You guys are great kids! I don’t want you to go online every night to check your GPA. Please don’t obsess about college or graduate school. Do your best, put in an honest effort, and enjoy life at the same time. In the long run, it is much more important to learn good habits both in school and socially. You need to be dependable so that your bosses, family and friends can count on you. You need You guys are great kids! I don’t want you to go online every night to check your GPA. Please to learn how to evaluate new situations, adapt to new challenges, and think creatively. That is how you will be successful in life. Most of all, if you do have trouble, or things aren’t working out as you planned, PLEASE come to me for help. No matter what, I am always there for you.


You know, high school wasn’t that bad for me stress-wise. But I think that had a lot to do with how much I liked it. I had friends who were going through the same things as I was and I had just enough fun to balance all the crazy that came along with my AP tests and SAT practice exams. I think the only person that truly stressed me out was my show choir director… but that was just because I didn’t want to let her down.

But when it came to the college admission process and the first semester of college, I have to say that was probably the most stressful time of my life. I felt pressured to get into a big name private school and that a public college was just not good enough. After I got back my acceptance letters from Dension University and Ohio State University there was a tremendous pressure to pick Denison. And I know you guys would have been perfectly happy with either college, but for some reason I saw Denison as the choice that would make you proud of me. So I picked Denison when, in hindsight, I really wanted to go to Ohio State.

And then, when I got to Denison, it wasn’t the pressure of classes that got me down; I knew I hated the school, the kids, and everything about the school and I was afraid to tell you that I wanted to transfer. I was miserable there but I let myself go through it alone because I didn’t want to disappoint you. Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore and I told you I wanted to transfer all the stress disappeared and I could breath again! I completely regret going to Dension in the first place and I am so happy that you guys were understanding of the fact that I needed to move to Ohio State.

Stress affects kids differently. I don’t get stressed about classes or tests. I get more stressed about letting people down, whereas my best friend FREAKS OUT when she has to take a test or give a speech. It’s all about the person.


Yeah, college applications were probably the most stressful thing this year to complete. Kind of makes me shudder to think about. And I am still going through all these scholarship applications that weigh me down in the same way. It’s hard to believe that all the college work happened just a few months ago. It felt like such mind numbing brainwash! The same questions over and over again, “What is it about our school that make you want to apply?” What? Do they have self-confidence issues? Do they need to be told over and over again by different students what’s good about their schools?

With so many people applying, I highly doubt answers would vary to any extremes. That is unless someone decides to rant about how great the water fountains are, or something. I mean a college exists because it is an institution with influence and money that educates people. It’s a place with good teachers and resources, and that’s what we want! The colleges already know their strengths! I just felt that after my tenth application, I could have started copying and pasting my previous essays and just changing the name of the school. It became repetitive work, and it was scary to think that my future is dependent upon one application so diluted among all the others.

So to answer the question, I’d say that friends have been the exact opposite of stressful and pressuring. It is so relieving to hang out with friends, and maybe it’s not always this way with Devan or Ryan, but my friends tend to stay away from the experimental stuff. So I understand that there is fear that teens are constantly pressuring each other to do crazy stuff, but at this point, as we’re getting ready to leave high school, we teens can appreciate a little time away from the crazy in life.


I have always felt pressure to get good grades. I think that this pressure has actually helped me in my life. Sorry Mom, but this pressure has mostly come from you and Dad. I think that it is a good thing because it has helped me get good grades. I know what will happen if I don’t get good grades. There will be a long lecture about being responsible and preparing. Maybe even consequences.

I have some friends who are happy with Bs. They are disappointed because their parents won’t be disappointed with those grades. There are times when I wish my parents were like that. However, I also think that if my parents didn’t care so much about grades, I wouldn’t work as hard. I really think that I owe my success in school to my Mom and Dad. I think I’m glad to have parents that push me when it comes to school. Sometimes it can be stressful when I have a low grade that I need to raise, but all in all that stress has made me a hard working kid.

Mindy Gallagher

Mindy Gallagher is Your Teen Magazine’s social media editor and a mom to three boys.