Back to school woes pressuring students 


Photo by Mackenzie Schuler

Back-to-school is all the buzz, but is it more of a concept upheld by capitalist culture as opposed to honest feelings towards an upcoming endeavour?  

Companies can’t seem to let the remaining warm summer months fizzle out organically before unveiling their obstructive eye-sore adverts exclaiming that you need the next best thing to help you prepare for the new school year to get ahead of your peers.   

In recent times, the “back-to-school” season has taken on a new dimension, often characterized by the persistent sense of FOMO and anxiety.  

The traditional excitement of fresh notebooks and renewed friendships now seems overshadowed by overly enthusiastic messages feeding into material wants & trendy needs.  

While it’s seemingly important to be on top of it all and well-informed, the increasingly persistent and frankly, overhyped culture surrounding the return to school warrants a critical examination. 

 Although starting a new school year, and perhaps a new school entirely, can evoke feelings of excitement and stress, there is no need to apply more pressure on students who are more impressionable when feeling anxious.  

Students should feel prepared – not like they are facing unrealistic expectations regarding their performance and worth.  

Fear is a powerful emotion, and a powerful tool.  

Fear can prompt individuals into making hasty decisions, often dictating their next moves and planting cryptic seeds into their subconscious.  

Media headlines and sensationalized adverts can inadvertently play on these fears, often creating the very insecurity companies wish to capitalize on.  

As a result, students (and parents!), find themselves navigating an already stressful season with heightened anxiety and pressure. 

Not only regarding their identity, but also their ability to perform on their A-game.  

Social pressures and the FOMO are conjured up, with the solution being manifested and marketed into a physical form, packaged as “that thing you really need to get ahead of your classmates” or “the back to school look you need to feel your best”.   

The fear-based narrative surrounding the return to school can also have broader societal implications.  

It can foster divisiveness, with differing opinions on how to handle the situation causing friction between parents, educators, and policymakers.  

This undermines the collaborative spirit necessary for creating a fun, functional and effective learning environment.  

While it’s undeniable that the back-to-school mantra can be received positively, as everyone experiences life through their own perspective, there is also another side of the story that hopes to paint the narrative of September through a lens of peace by adopting a more balanced approach to the season that will lead students into the new year.  

This time, with a healthier mindset mitigating a sense of dread.  

The back-to-school culture need not be dominated by fearmongering, or identity crisis, rather by critically evaluating information, fostering open communication, and emphasizing the positive aspects of being whole as an individual and having enough.  

Highlighting abundance in life helps account for items we already have, so that we don’t purchase things or feed into products we easily don’t need.  

We can create a more constructive and informed approach to this annual transition.  

Let’s replace undue FOMO with a collective determination to ensure safe, enriching, and enjoyable learning experiences for all. 

Returning to school is often viewed as a stressor regardless of academic intelligence.  

Our technology has advanced over these past few years. It has enhanced the learning experience but has also created many new challenges that new students are bound to face.  

The reliance and need for technology and digital platforms have increased. 

This has lead to overwhelmed yet under-helped students.  

While some may excel with online work, the pressure to stay updated with the latest technology, newest stationery, gadgets can make many people, particularly those from struggling households.  

Getting back into the swing of structured socializing, being connected, managing online and in person schedules all while trying to navigate through numerous new applications can cause anxiety with students. 

 Back-to-school advertisements aggressively flaunting the new best thing, outfit, rebrand for the school year may not sit well with students who are struggling financially, let alone be able to start a new chapter while creating new connections online.  

The continuous cycle of students leaving a semester behind only to start a new one can create a sense of perpetual motion. 

This leaves students with no time to catch their breath before taking on the next academic challenge.  

This feeling is further intensified by persistent advertising, bombarding students with messages about the latest technology, back-to-school sales and the need to stay in the loop. 

 The influx of advertisements, spanning across different platforms, from TV to social media only reinforces the idea that the academic stress never truly leaves.  

It doesn’t have to be that way. 

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Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.