From navigating relationships to keeping a high GPA, students like Molly Wooster face a multitude of difficult situations; in hindsight, they may realize that what’s important now won’t be in five years.
IB diploma student Wooster said she related to this. “First-semester junior year, it was rough trying to figure out where IB fits in with extracurriculars, or if you had a job or other responsibilities,” Wooster said.
Wooster said she wrote an extended essay about electromagnetism, and she had some complications. “I tried to collect data so many times, and it took so many hours, and I cried about it in the moment. But then, I finished the paper with incomplete data just talked about what went wrong. I was talking about how much I love my topic and I’m so glad that I did it. In retrospect, I made it a lot more positive of an experience.”
Reflecting on her past project, Wooster said things seemed like a bigger deal than they do now. “I definitely was super stressed about it the whole time I wrote it. And then when I look back on it now, I’m like, ‘that was so fun,’” Wooster said.
She said she gained insight from each difficulty in regards to schoolwork. “Life is just a series of those moments: doing something, freaking out, and then thinking, ‘oh, that wasn’t that bad’ and moving on. I think that prepares you for increasingly more stressful things,” Wooster said.
West graduate and Kansas University student Parker Liu said he was involved in band, choir, lacrosse, IB classes, and other activities. “There was a lot of pressure on me to be a role model to a lot of people. I also had a lot of pressure in terms of schoolwork. IB classes aren’t easy, especially with a busy schedule. There was also the pressure of planning for college and the future. It’s a lot of thinking for a high schooler.”
For Liu, the pressures took a toll. “There were a lot of things I had to deal with. I suffered from anxiety and depression, something that isn’t really talked about in school but so many students suffer from it.”
Liu said he dealt with this by involving himself in a lot of activities. “I also dealt with a terribly busy schedule and having to balance activities with schoolwork. I kept a planner and bullet journal to help myself keep organized.”
He said that in college, there’s a new perspective. “There’s still pressure in college, but nothing like the degree of high school. In my opinion, there’s more pressure to figure out who you are as a person. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Looking back on high school, there was so much pressure and a lot of it was so unnecessary,” Liu said.
Liu also said that besides grades and studying, relationships got in the way. “Relationships seem like such a big deal in high school, but you’re under the age of 18. There are so many people to meet once you hit college. The drama of high school relationships and friendships end up being forgotten.”
The extracurricular scene, too, was tense for Liu. “I dealt with dramatic situations in activities, like music and sports. It’s extremely competitive, and when it comes to a bunch of hormonal and angsty teenagers, it’s like Game of Thrones up in there.”
Wooster said she has experienced similar situations. “Because I’m surrounded by the same 15 people in all of my classes, it tends to create kind of this isolated little bubble of people. Sometimes, that can lead to conflict within the group. Within that group, we deal with conflict by talking to each other, figuring things out, and not making assumptions.”
Psychology teacher Mrs. Myers said on average, most students deal with peer pressure. “Everybody has a certain amount of drive within themselves that they don’t ever want to look like they’re incompetent in front of their classmates.”
From time to time, some of these motivations can seem silly in hindsight. “Some of the pressures in high school sometimes are very self-absorbed, very self-created as far as learning when to walk away from something, learning to determine whether or not a situation is really important,” Myers said.
She said that aside from giving in to certain ideas to please others, “there are pressures in life that there’s nothing we can do about that are going to come our way, and we’ve got to have the tools to deal with them. Some of that you’re learning along the way, in high school.”
Myers said that although social issues can be tough on students, school work is stressful as well. “A certain amount of pressure is not a bad thing, but when a student is completely overwhelmed and struggling beyond what would be the perhaps comfortable level of pressure, we help students figure out a better way to deal with some of those things,” she said.
Myers said she had one piece of advice. “You need to be true to yourself.”
Liu said he had recommendations for current busy students. “I realize now that my health is my priority. There’s way too much pressure. ‘Get good grades, keep a good GPA, be involved, have a social life, eat well, exercise, do this, do that.’ It gets terribly overwhelming. Yes, it’s good to be involved and to get good grades, but most high schoolers haven’t even reached 18 yet. Slow down, take care of yourself.”
He also offered another coping mechanism. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to friends, family, teachers. They can help you figure out the situation that you’re going through. It’s tough enough going through high school, it’s even tougher going through it alone,” Liu said.
Wooster said she recalled her first day of junior year. “We were so excited. We had so many expectations for those two years, and I feel like we couldn’t anticipate how much we would change, not just in IB, but just life. I feel like I’m a completely different person than I was when I walked into IB,” she said.
Myers said the most important part of high school is growing. “The goal of that is that hopefully, you’ll learn some things about yourself and about dealing with that kind of stuff that when you hit wherever it is you’re going, and you will be a little bit better equipped.”
Liu’s most memorable moment at West? “My last day of high school. Everyone was so excited, and when we were all finally let out, it was like a breath of fresh air.”
He said he is unsure where he’s headed after attending KU, “but I know I still have time to figure it out,” something many students likely need to hear.