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5 Ways To Deal With Competitive Pressure In College

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Competition. Contesting. Stressful. Difficult. Complex. Taxing. Rough.

I asked a few of my friends at Cornell to describe their academic livelihoods in one word, and these seven words were the most common. I always questioned why college academics were synonymous to stress and competitiveness and have grown to realize that while competitive college environments produce various benefits, there are also numerous detriments that are not discussed enough. 

Upon gaining admission to Cornell, I knew that I would be surrounded by like-minded individuals, all of whom are deemed “the best and the brightest.”

However, within my college specifically – The Dyson School of Business – I was taken aback by the overwhelming competitive pressure between myself and my peers.

Typical conversational questions in Dyson are almost always “Where are you interning this summer?”, “How many networking events have you attended this semester?” or “Do I have you on LinkedIn?”, amongst many others.

Very rarely do I get asked the basics like, “How are you?” or “What did you have for lunch?”. This competitive culture that has been ingrained into Dyson often makes it difficult to thrive academically as I almost always find myself comparing other students’ success and accomplishments to mine.

Being a transfer student didn’t make matters any better; in fact, I’m almost certain that it heightened my imposter syndrome

One day, I reflected on my time here at Cornell and thought about how much of that time I’d spent either comparing myself to my peers or putting myself down because of it.

When realizing how dissatisfied I was with my answer, I knew that I needed to look for ways to relieve myself of constantly dealing with my competitive, Ivy-league environment.

This led me to create Chloe’s Declassified College Survival Guide (shout out to Ned Bigby!). Within my survival guide, I share with fellow college students tips and tricks I use daily to prevent myself from being overwhelmed by competitive college environments and today I will share these tips with you!

1. Make time for YOU

My go-to method for dealing with competitive pressure is to make time for myself. That is all things self-care and leisure. Whether that be watching an episode of The Originals or baking with friends, I believe that it is essential to set aside time at least once a week catered to you and you only. 

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2. Find a mentor

One thing that I have to constantly remind myself of is that there are people who were in my shoes and have undergone the endless late nights of last minute studying and meeting 11:59 deadlines. Therefore, I suggest leveraging your institution’s network of former alumni to be a source of inspiration and motivation when you need it most.

This individual should take on the role of more of a personal mentor, rather than an academic or professional career mentor to facilitate a more informal relationship that enables you to vent, ask raw questions, and be advised on ways to endure these competitive environments.

3. Set personal goals for yourself – daily, weekly and monthly

First and foremost, be reminded that your only competition is yourself! While it may seem as if your peers are your main competition both in academic and professional spaces, the truth that I had to learn is that YOU are the only one getting in your way of achieving your goals.

Hence, writing down goals you seek to meet is crucial to seeing personal growth in all areas within these spaces where academic stress and peer pressure reign predominant.

4. Congratulate yourself!

Oftentimes we get so engrossed in the achievements of others that we forget to acknowledge our own accomplishments both big and small. Pat yourself on the back for remembering to eat today! Congratulate yourself on getting an A- in a course you struggled with.

Applaud yourself for making it to the final round of interviews for an internship you’ve been dying to get. No matter the size of the accomplishment, make sure to be proud of YOU. 

5. Prioritize your health – mental, physical and emotional

Try your hardest not to place your grades before your health! When you are lacking health-wise, it only limits your ability to thrive academically.

Your health comes first, and more often than not your professors/advisors will say the same. Take necessary mental health days and take advantage of your school’s mental health resources to boost your drive. 

With these five tips, I hope that you all are able to better deal with your school’s academic rigor and pressure-filled environments. Be reminded that college is no easy marathon, and no two people’s races are the same. You are more than capable! 

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Author: Chloe Adeleke

Hey everyone! My name is Chloe Adeleke and I am a sophomore at Cornell University. I attend the Dyson School, majoring in Applied Economics and Management with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Finance. My career goals include becoming an investment banking analyst upon graduating and creating my own foundation to raise capital for ESG related initiatives in third world countries. I'm looking forward to writing more blogs for you all and I hope you enjoy reading!