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Vol 39  No 8
Jan. 11, 2007


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Student View

By Jillian Terry


Playing one-on-one

The thrill of competition is something experienced by practically all of society. Whether it’s watching the Stanley Cup finals on television or competing in a sixth-grade spelling bee, the thought of winning – or, less preferably, losing – drives individuals to go great lengths for a victorious finish. However, the thrill goes far beyond competitive sports and activities. With the start of a new semester, and a busy sports season filled with hockey, football, and basketball, competition can be found not only on the courts, but also in the classroom.

Competing for the best grades in school is by no means a new concept. Previous generations of students were actually much more accustomed to the idea of competition when it comes to education than students are today. Not only were students ranked and compared according to their academic performance, but their ranking was common knowledge and was often required by many employers.

Now, especially in Canada, competition among students for academic achievement has become less of a focus on the part of school administrators. Even here at Memorial, professors are not required to disclose information about how your grades stack up against those of your classmates. This shift away from concentrating on the comparison of individual student abilities is seen as a way to acknowledge that every student is different and that such a comparison is unfair and ineffective. Nevertheless, the question still remains – does competition increase a student’s drive to succeed?

Obviously, competition does still exist amongst students of all ages. Even without an official ranking system, conversation of grades between students allows for a competition and a feeling on behalf of the student that they should strive to obtain the highest grades in the class. Not only does the student then work harder to achieve their potential, but it makes it more difficult to place the blame of low grades on the professor or the course material since classmates are receiving higher grades.

A healthy and friendly competition among students can evidently have beneficial effects on academic performance, but if relied upon too heavily, morale and self-esteem can suffer. Also, it must be taken into consideration that when discussing grades, some students inflate the marks they actually earned in order to create the false impression of a higher average or GPA, leaving others to incorrectly assume that they are not as intelligent as their counterparts.

As with any competition, players often manipulate the truth in their own best interests, sometimes to the detriment of others. The final result of the spirit of competition, however, is not to harm individuals, but rather to encourage them to try harder in whatever activity they are engaged in, whether it be cross-country skiing or a mid-term chemistry exam. This competitive nature can, with the proper attitude, be found in students without having to be ranked against others.

One of the hardest parts of succeeding in post-secondary education, according to most students, is motivation. We all say at the beginning of each semester that this time around will be a new start full of hard work and academic inquiry. And, all too often, “hard work” turns into napping in the library and we find ourselves not doing as well as previously hoped for. Competition with yourself is one important way to combat the negative aspects of the freedom that comes with being a university student. By treating schoolwork as a type of game with you as the only player, it becomes easier to try to better yourself over time.

Well-known football coach Vince Lombardi once said that “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” While he later regretted making such a harsh statement, his quote demonstrated just how seriously society takes competition. So, after having resolved to work harder during the upcoming semester, look not to your classmates as measure for your success, but instead to yourself. Though perhaps not quite as thrilling as what is found on the ice at the Stanley Cup finals, a face-off with yourself might just be the spark you need to get motivated.

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