Some grown-ups regard the life of high school students as a sunny sequence of homecoming games and proms. Others see it as one long bout of adolescent angst. A new survey of high school students by the Horatio Alger Association finds the kids fitting neither of these stereotypes.
There's no doubt that there are difficulties endemic to the high school years. The survey found that pressure to get good grades poses a "major problem" for 41 percent of the students. Sixteen percent said that "feeling like no one understands you" is a major problem for them; 11 percent said the same of "loneliness or feeling left out." While one-fourth of the students said pressure to use drugs or drink alcohol is a "minor problem" for them, just 9 percent said it's a major problem. Likewise, 26 percent said "pressure to engage in sexual activity before you are ready" is a minor problem for them, but a mere 8 percent said it's a major problem. In at least one respect, peer pressure isn't such a bad thing. When asked how important various factors are when it comes to fitting in with their friends, respondents gave the biggest "very important" vote (33 percent) to "get good grades in school." That put grades ahead of such fitting-in factors as "have a car" (20 percent), "be involved in sports" (17 percent), "be involved in after-school activities not related to sports" (10 percent), "dress a certain way" (9 percent) and "have a cool ring tone for your phone" (3 percent).
Family life is more a positive than a negative element for most students. While 17 percent characterized family problems or disputes with parents as a major problem for them, 43 percent said these aren't a problem and 40 percent ranked them as a minor problem. Ninety percent of high schoolers said there's "at least one family member whom I can confide in and talk about things." If they could be granted one of several possible wishes, respondents would be most likely to pick "more time spent together with family" (46 percent), putting this ahead of "more money to buy items such as TVs or cars" (27 percent) and "a bigger house" (14 percent). If they had to choose one person as a role model, 47 percent said they'd go for a family member, with mom getting the nod most often. Incidentally, whatever complaints high schoolers might have about home, home cooking isn't one of them. When asked where they'd prefer to go for some good chow, 71 percent opted to "eat a home-cooked-meal," putting that option far ahead of "eat out at a sit-down restaurant" (20 percent), "eat out at a fast-food restaurant" (4 percent) or "get take-out food and eat at home" (4 percent).