Is competition healthy for students?

From science fairs to classroom quizzes, academic competitions surround the learning process. A student who may zone out during a lecture can become passionate when given a chance to compete against his or her peers. However, while competition can motivate students and increase participation, it can also cause stress or anxiety if taken too seriously.

There is a healthy boundary that should be respected with the competition, and students, teachers, and parents can work together to find the right balance.

Healthy competition can drive success

Research shows that competition can drive attention, physical effort, and learning. The social motivation of competing against one’s peers can challenge a student to work much harder on his or her tasks than he or she would independently feel compelled to do so.

With a challenge in mind, a student might put in double the work and retain double the information in order to obtain the upper hand. This is a fantastic way to encourage students to get engaged and have fun in the process.


It is not always easy to motivate students in the classroom. Extracurricular activities and social events may distract even a high-achieving student. Schools use academic competitions as a way to drum up excitement and motivation when students’ minds wander.

Sometimes, all it takes to ignite a student’s passion for his or her subjects is a friendly competition. Gamifying classroom instruction is a classic tool teachers’ use when the afternoon slump hits and students’ start to glaze over during the lecture. A fun and informal quiz bowl or other challenge are all it takes to get a classroom excited about the material again.

Accepting loss and failure

School teaches much more than facts and figures – we also bear the responsibility of helping students grow character and social skills. While it is important for a student to be motivated and engaged in their academic studies, it is equally vital that they learn to be gracious competitors.

How do we teach this? By allowing students to experience loss and failure so that they can accept these difficult emotions with good nature. Competitions give a student a safe place to make mistakes, fail, celebrate others wins in addition to his or her own, and much more. These lessons are every bit as important as the academic material.

Too much of a good thing?

Finally, it is important to note that there can be drawbacks to academic competitions. While a competitive drive does increase motivation, engagement, and social skills, if it is not given appropriate parameters, it can lead to aggression, anxiety, and frustration. A student might worry about disappointing his or her parents and teachers or losing status among peers. This can lead to undue focus on winning, extreme disappointment, and even low self-esteem.

Parents and teachers can help students avoid these pitfalls by focusing on personal goals and fostering an atmosphere of encouraging, positive development. It is always important to celebrate and acknowledge a student’s effort, regardless if he or she wins in the end. Individual progress is just as important as taking home the first-place prize.

American Heritage School is committed to student development

At American Heritage School, our objectives are to teach responsibility, discipline, time management, the spirit of competition, and good sportsmanship, within a close-knit family environment.

Each year, students at American Heritage School of Boca/Delray attend prestigious competitions and earn exceptional awards. Here are some of their recent achievements:

  • #1 high school in Palm Beach County in Math competition
  • #1 high school in Palm Beach County in the Science Fair
  • #1 high school in Palm Beach County in Mock Trial and Moot Court competition
  • Top awards at the national Tournament of Champions Speech and Debate competition
  • Top awards in the U.S. at the Future Business Leaders of America competition
  • Qualifiers for the 2019 Robotics World Competition

Please browse through our website to learn more about our school and all of our offerings. Contact us to schedule a personalized campus tour so you can see for yourself why we are the best.