The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

Split editorial: Competition within students


Competition leaves everyone a loser

From classrooms to club meetings, on the sports field or in the theater, competition is an unavoidable aspect of our lives, especially at an independent school with plenty of prizes and positions—and no shortage of people ready to compete for them. It’s time to face the fact that competition decreases joy and collaboration in learning, creates tension within friendships, and negatively impacts mental health.

As a natural consequence of being human and students at an independent school, we learn to covet good grades, a win at a sport’s tournament, or the lead in a play as if our survival depends on it.

We get it. Who doesn’t want to win? But let’s think about the cost. Focused on attaining tangible awards instead of intangible skills, students here concentrate on the end result when they should be directing it to the process. Not only does this competitive mindset detract from our learning, but it also reduces student collaboration and teamwork.

Take for example, the Sophomore Debates. This is an assignment which naturally breeds competition on a team level as teams vie to win their debate. But students become so focused on their own success and the hope of attaining the title of All-Star Debater, that group dynamics suffer, and teamwork seems like an impediment to each individual’s goals.

You might say the competition between students only increases during junior year. The Junior Profile, which should be about creativity and honing writing skill, can quickly turn into a matter of competition. Conversations shift to who stayed up the latest working; stress replaces smiles as the deadline approaches. How did a love and passion for writing become replaced with a superficial goal of attaining Outstanding Profile status?

One of the detrimental aspects of the competitive environment at school is it pushes you to not only want yourself to win but to wish others would lose. This is when competition becomes an especially toxic phenomenon. CommuKnighty quickly dissolves when students’ desire to win becomes a desire for others to lose. Friendships, so important to sustaining oneself in this environment, suffer. Whether it’s for a position or for a prize, it’s inevitable that you bump up against friends en route to achieving your goals. A loss of friendship is too high a price to pay for a title that looks good on your college applications.

In this way, too many projects and positions have been reduced to resume building. Even if it’s a position we’re naturally interested in, all we can think about is how it will look on a college application. Application rabbit holes suck us in, and we often encounter our friends in their den. It’s sad how easily a desire for a resume builder can cause cracks in a steady, healthy friendship.

It’s no surprise that KindBridge, a research institute, discovered students in very competitive environments had 37% higher odds of depression and 69% higher odds of anxiety. There is a direct connection between poor mental health and competition.

No, competition is a not a force for good. That’s clear. But it’s also ingrained within our system and within ourselves. There is no way we can totally avoid it. The only thing we can do is mitigate its harmful effects.

Instead of fueling your competitiveness, examine your lifestyle. Focus on putting the best version of your work in each assignment, without worrying about who will receive the highest mark.

In competitions like the All-Star Debate, there’s still an opportunity to make competing against your classmates about teamwork by focusing on the overall group result.

When Profile time comes, savor the writing skills you develop. Make it about personal growth rather than a superficial distinction. You’ll thank yourself for it.

If you don’t receive an award or a position, look to celebrate your peers’ success. And remember that a line on your college app will be forgotten while maintaining your friendship is the real win.

—Emilia Khoury, Chloe Taft, Douglas Zhang, Beckett Dubovik (all ’25), Natalie Gersen and Audra Soni (both ’24)

Competition now creates winners later

Competition is woven into the world in which we live—in every facet of life there are winners and losers. Look at this competition of dueling editorials—even people who are against competition are competing. Competition in high school will never and should never go away because it is a powerful motivator that drives students to produce the best possible product.

Being praised for good grades and achievements is a rewarding feeling, one that many students rightfully strive for. The ornaments of competition—good grades, prizes, and trophies—provide hardworking students with well-deserved recognition, increasing their confidence and self-esteem. Competitions on major assignments such as the Junior Profile, Sophomore Debates, or Junior Research Paper allow students to be recognized for their skills, ability, and effort.

The students who win these prizes have gone above and beyond the typical effort to win. They have prioritized being the best. It’s a choice all students can make. All-Star Debaters, for example, are not selected at random to compete in the final debate—they have worked tirelessly, developing successful and persuasive arguments, to earn their spots.

Even though some students come out pronounced as winners, these assignments also encourage teamwork. Because the debaters are divided into teams, they need to work with one another for a common goal: beat the opposition. They are uKnighted, and it’s all thanks to their drive to win.

While the Junior Profile may seem like it naturally pits students against each other in a harmful way, students actually tend to work together on their papers, editing and proofreading each other’s work. Half of the grade on the Junior Profile is on the process, which enables students to take the time to engage in their work and the work of others to succeed. Contrary to popular belief, comments include helpful tips such as “I like what you did here,” and “but maybe you could change this;” this is no cutthroat environment.

The “outstanding” aspect of the assignment provides an achievable goal, one that motivates students to hone their writing skills and produce work of truly admirable quality. A look at the “Outstanding Profiles” from previous years is a testament to this competition’s power to inspire hard work and improvement. This is why competition belongs in the school environment more than anywhere else; competition within the school can be a powerful tool to motivate us to work harder, go beyond our goals, and reach our full potential.

Furthermore, it teaches students how to fail and rebound from loss. The “real world” does not follow the “everyone-gets-a-medal” philosophy, so it is important for students to learn how to grow from failure now, rather than be blindsided once they graduate. Although losing hurts like a punch to the gut, it is an inevitable part of life. Whether it be not getting a desired job or having your heart broken, loss is everywhere. It is important for students to learn how to lose with grace and accept defeat in a more controlled and supportive environment.

Healthy competition definitely has a place in the school environment. As long as students make sure their competitive fires do not burn out their mental and physical health, the amount of competition at the school drives improvement and collaboration— and prepares students for the realities of life beyond the school.

—Jasper Hawk, Elle Rosier, Charlotte Trodden, Graham Lee, Darius Sinha, Alexandra Kluzak (all ‘24), and Kate Rice ‘25

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