ByJesse Hausknecht-Brown, Natalie Dunlap, Marta Leira, Kailey Gee and Alex Carlon |
Looking back, Jazsime Vanpelt wishes she could have done her freshman and sophomore years differently. Checking her grades multiple times a day, loading too many extracurriculars onto her schedule and unnecessary pressure to do well in school created stress and anxiety in and outside of the classroom. Jazsime Vanpelt, Iowa City High School student (Photo by Jhakyra Banister)
The pressure wasn’t from Vanpelt’s parents. She did it to herself, the Iowa City High School senior said. “I would like to freak out if my grades went down, even a little bit,” Vanpelt, 17, said.
Making good grades is but one of several pressures high school students interviewed for a new IowaWatch High School journalism project said.
The word “college” stresses many high school students, whether or not their resume has enough activities on it, if they have a high enough ACT score, the change of living on their own, or when their applications are due.
And, because someone — them, their families — has to pay for it.
“It makes me feel bad and burdensome because I know that my parents are really stressed about money in general, and I know they want to support me,” Marina Beachy, a senior at Mid-Prairie High School in Wellman, said in an IowaWatch high school journalism project about pressure Iowa high school students face. Pressure when picking a college came up often in that project, conducted in the first three months of 2020 by student journalists at City and West High schools in Iowa City working with their teachers and IowaWatch. Money is a big reason for the stress. ABOUT THIS PROJECT
High School Pressure is an IowaWatch High School journalism collaboration with the award-winning Iowa City high school newpapers The Little Hawk and West Side Story, at City High School and West High School, respectively. Journalists who produced this project, working with IowaWatch’s Lyle Muller and their journalism teachers, were:
Natalie Dunlap, West HighMarta Leira, West HighAlex Carlon, West HighKailey Gee, West HighShoshanna Hemley, City HighJesse Hausknecht-Brown, City HighNina Lavezzo-Stecopoulos, City HighJulianne Berry-Stoelzle, City High
Teachers assisting in this project are Sara Whittaker, West High School, and Jonathan Rogers, City High.This project was supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of Johnson County.
High school sophomores and juniors around the country check what they received when preliminary scholastic aptitude test scores — better known as PSAT scores — are posted in December.
The “what did you get?” and “did you do better than me?” questions follow. Jenny Geng, Iowa City West High School student (Photo provided Jenny Geng)
“I hate the comparison of test scores,” Jenny Geng, 16, a junior at Iowa City West High School, said. “It makes them feel bad about themselves,” she said about students she knows. “But you can’t stop it and it’s going to happen,” she said. “I don’t like it.”
Competition in high school is producing stress for high school students in many aspects of their lives. High school students participating in an IowaWatch high school journalism project this year rattled off a list of ways they compete with one another: how your body looks, social life, academics.
At times, Alyson Brown can’t eat or sleep. Some days, she sleeps for hours during the day. Other days, she has panic attacks that feel like heart attacks. This has happened in cycles throughout her life, she says. She suffers from depression.
IowaWatch reporters Linh Ta and Rana Moustafa spoke with Iowa college students diagnosed with depression who said it impacted their performance in the classroom, but they often feared to reveal their struggles because of the stigma associated with the disease. Read and hear their stories in this comprehensive report.
Anxiety, depression and stress are reality for Jordon Deutmeyer, a 23-year-old University of Northern Iowa student who has dropped out of two schools, attempted suicide, and failed a multitude of classes. “I just remember trying really hard in all of my classes,” Deutmeyer said. “I never skipped, I never did anything, I tried really hard. I would just get C’s back or fail. “And the more times I did that, the more it was pounding into me that I was an inferior student and I don’t belong here.”
He got a lesson that any college students dealing with depression learn – that while earning a bachelor’s degree in college requires anyone to overcome obstacles, students with depression can find themselves overcoming even darker challenges.