As time marches forward, many students face more pressure than ever before to excel, academically, socially and athletically, all while balancing other extracurricular activities and a job.

Colleges are becoming increasingly competitive and growing up in this day and age has made life very stressful. Although I consider myself an overachiever and a perfectionist, I know that I am far from the only student who feels mounting pressure to excel in school. As a senior, I can look back on my high school years and think about all the great things I have experienced — from being a member of Student Senate to performing as an apprentice at Maine State Ballet. However, I can’t help but feel like I should have done more.

Nowadays, there are college prep courses, AP courses, dual-enrollment courses, pre-college intensives and more. It feels like it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate myself from other students who are applying to colleges just like I am. It doesn’t seem to be enough to be in numerous clubs and at the top of your class — colleges expect more.

I spoke with fellow classmates Olivia Cox and Bryn Roma about the stress they faced this year and it was strikingly similar to how many other students are feeling. Olivia said, “Going into the college application process, I felt like I needed to have started my own nonprofit or something to have stood out at all.” She also said, “The pressure of college applications pushed out all my enjoyment for all the things I usually do, like clubs, school and music — everything became secondary to that stress.” The high expectations for high school seniors create a toxic environment with an unhealthy balance between work and play.

Bryn Roma said, “There’s a lot of stress at the end of the year,” mentioning “capstone, college stuff, the senior paper and AP tests” to think about within the last few months of school. Bryn described it as “very intense.”

Despite the challenges that many students face today, there could be a benefit to the chaos. I think that once school is over and we move on to the real world, hopefully our generation will have a good grasp on work-life balance and the importance of self-care. It is important to figure out what works for the individual and how to approach the stress we face in today’s fast-paced world. With just a few months left of school, students will be powering through to summer, where we will hopefully have time to prepare for our next big steps while enjoying some good, old-fashioned fun.

Lucy Nelson is a Harpswell native and a senior at Mt. Ararat High School. She dances with Maine State Ballet and is involved in Student Senate and National Honor Society at Mt. Ararat.