Success at What Cost?

Walk onto campus on any given day and you’ll be greeted by drooping eyes on expressionless faces, the result of what students attribute to the numerous hours spent on homework assignments, tests, and projects.

Many claim that family pressure for academic success compels them to stay up late. Even more blame teachers for not communicating with each other enough to avoid converging due dates. Amidst the clamor, however, we must pause to wonder whether this increasingly burdensome workload is necessary to live a fruitful life and achieve success. Or is it simply a useless frivolity—the result of the educational community’s increasing willingness to forsake student physical, mental, and emotional health in favor of creating supposedly “well-rounded” graduates?

Having been raised in our highly competitive, success-driven culture, many of us know no other way of life. We are taught that this competition is needed to ensure a financially solvent, socially stable future. However, we are neither given concrete proof that this “rat race” will result in financial stability nor are we sufficiently cautioned that the desire for financial stability should control but a small portion of one’s life.

…overworking students will only succeed in creating weary and disillusioned high schoolers with an aversion to the aforementioned virtues, not to mention the multitude of potential health drawbacks.

Extending the problem, the whole college system seems to be designed for the sole purpose of facilitating rigorous competition between students as they contend for the “best” college education possible. Parents and counselors further contribute to this hectic lifestyle, enrolling us in SAT and ACT prep classes, encouraging us to join extra-curricular activities and community service organizations, and pushing us toward more rigorous classes for the purpose of creating as impressive a college application as possible. Not surprisingly, we students soon start to buy into the illusion that a gigantic workload guarantees future success, and we ourselves begin to exacerbate our own burden with even more work.

Of course, an excellent education is needed not only to sharpen our mental acuity and prepare us for the rigors of college, but also to build character and demonstrate the value of hard work. However, overworking students will only succeed in creating weary and disillusioned high schoolers with an aversion to the aforementioned virtues, not to mention the multitude of potential health drawbacks.

Therefore, as a society, we need to recognize that life should not be dictated by the need to pile on responsibility after responsibility after responsibility. We shouldn’t seek to exhaust students for the sake of a mere resumé, a life sacrificed for a sheet of paper. Instead, we should emphasize the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Not only will this improve our health—stress weakens the immune system, which increases our risk for nearly every infectious disease out there—but emphasizing harmony between work, sleep, fellowship, relaxation, and exercise will also ensure that none of these equally important parts of our life is neglected.

A balanced life will allow us to actually begin to enjoy learning, rather than dread school for its onerous workload. We would be able to experience all aspects of our life to the fullest, approaching each with a delighted vigor otherwise absent in a life dominated by work. Such a life will require discipline and self control, but as seen in both the Bible—Ecclesiastes chapter 3 teaches that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”—and occupational research, the result is well worth the work.

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