The Competitive Nature of LASA

Wrenny Collamer, Staffer

LASA fosters a competitive environment, leading to a potential increase in stress for students. LASA’s competition and stress have both positive and negative aspects, but their comprehensive impacts need to be evaluated more closely on a personal and school-wide level.

Throwing a group of academically fixated students into a school together encourages a more competitive academic landscape. Many studies, such as “When Schools Are the Ones that Choose: The Effects of Screening in Chile”, indicate that a more competitive schooling environment can push students to become more invested in what they are learning and strive to be more successful academically. However, stress is one of the side effects of increased competition among students. The study “Perception of Academic Stress Among Health Science Preparatory Program Students in two Saudi Universities” measured student stress in a competition based curriculum and a non-competition-based curriculum, finding that more competition directly caused more stress.

But what do heightened stress levels mean for students? At its most basic, stress is something that the brain initiates as a means for survival. When put face to face with a bear, it’s important that your heart is pumping, your senses are heightened, and your muscles are ready to move. Your body is hardwired to activate a response in stressful situations, releasing substances such as cortisol and adrenaline that give humans an edge when they need it.

Even though LASA students don’t face life-threatening scenarios in their day to day lives, because stress is relative they don’t actually find themselves less stressed. Because the way that the body reacts to a stressful situation was originally meant to benefit people in quick bursts, the continuous and intensified stress that LASA causes has the potential to adversely impact students in the long term. The name for this is chronic stress.

Studies indicate that chronic stress has prolonged impacts on physical health and how the mind behaves. In a 1981 study on mice, the mice that had been exposed to long term stressors weren’t as able to respond to immediate threats with as much success and remained at a more constant state of inactivity regardless of stimuli. The study links the symptoms that were found in mice to the symptoms of depression found in humans, drawing the conclusion that chronic stress is a possible cause for depression. A 2001 study (“ Chronic stress influences cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses during acute stress and recovery, especially in men”) also highlights the physical impacts of chronic stress, noting damages to cardiovascular and neuroendocrine health.

However, it can’t be denied that a competitive environment, along with a healthy amount of increased stress, can prepare and condition students to be more capable and independent. A 2013 study at Lahore University took data about student stress and compared that with the year of study of the study. It found that older students who had been in college for longer experienced less stress, drawing the conclusion that they had learned to adapt to a new environment and increased workload. In concurrence, a 2013 study pointed to children who grow up with more stress as having more mature brains. So often LASA is pinned as having students that are great at academics, but dysfunctional in real-world situations, but this study concluded that frequent high stress allowed kids to respond to stimuli in the same way as adults and gave people the ability to better regulate their emotional response to tense situations.

The competitive environment that LASA creates is multifaceted in the way it impacts its students. More competition at the school leads to greater stress; and while competition can also assist in creating well-equipped students, the damaging effects of stress on developing young adults is well documented and can’t be overlooked.