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Academic overachievement is where a person's academic achievement is greater than that predicted by scholastic aptitude or intelligence tests

Overachievers are individuals who "perform better or achieve more success than expected." [1]The implicit presumption is that the "overachiever" is achieving superior results through excessive effort. In a teaching context, an "overachiever" is an educational label applied to students, who perform better than their peers when normalized for the instructor's perceptions of background, intelligence or talent.

Elementary and secondary school[edit | edit source]

In an educational context, "overachiever" is defined as "a student who attains higher standards than the IQ indicated."[2] Overachievers are generally contrasted with underachievers who perform less well than the instructor thinks they should given their intelligence. An Encyclopedia of Psychology notes that “[g]enerally, these terms are not used by either educators or psychologists.” [3] While the concept of over- and underachievers has wide acceptance among practicing teachers, it remains a controversial topic on several points:

  • Both are labels which implicitly affect teacher behavior. This frequently leads the labels to become self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • The labels are based on a static and incomplete understanding of the nature of intelligence. The ability to concentrate and to work in a dedicated manner cannot be separated from a person's "native" or "raw" intelligence in any meaningfully testable way.

A 2007 book about overachievement describes the "cult of overachieving that is prevalent in many middle- and upper-class schools", in which "students are obsessed with success, contending with illness, physical deterioration."[4] "When teenagers inevitably look at themselves through the prism of our overachiever culture," the author writes, "they often come to the conclusion that no matter how much they achieve, it will never be enough.""[5]

Colleges and universities[edit | edit source]

For college and university students, "there is a fine line between being a high achiever and an overachiever." In the US, "an increasing number of college students are literally making themselves sick in the pursuit of perfection", by setting "self-imposed but unrealistically high standards." According to "Dr. Modupe Akin-Deko, senior psychologist at Buffalo State College's counseling center, ...maladaptive perfectionists set themselves up for failure by setting impossible standards for themselves, thus lowering their self esteem when they never reach their goals."[6] “Clinical psychologist Marilyn Sorenson in her book, Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem, maintains that people with low self-esteem often find themselves driven to overachieve to build self-worth.” [7]

A 2011 article describes the "overachiever’s drug culture" on college campuses, in which students take "stimulants [such as Adderall] in order to be successful."[8] Students use stimulants to stay up all night to study for exams or finish projects. The article notes that a "2006 study led by Northeastern University Pharmacy professor Christian Teter found that 75% of students who abuse prescription drugs use Adderall or Ritalin as an academic aid."[9]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Overachievement" in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
  2. "Overachiever" in WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
  3. eNotes Encyclopedia of Psychology. Available at Accessed on Oct. 1, 2011
  4. Review ofThe Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids in Publishers Weekly. Available at Accessed Oct. 1, 2011
  5. Alexandra Robbins. The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids. Hyperion Books, 2007
  6. Maria Pascucci. "In pursuit of perfection-Students who are overachievers may pay a high psychological price". The Buffalo News. Available online at: Accessed on September 28, 2011.
  7. eNotes Encyclopedia of Psychology. Available at Accessed on Oct. 1, 2011
  8. Liz McIntyre. Overachiever's Drug Culture.GARNET & BLACK - STUDENT MAGAZINE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA. 23 March 2011. Accessed Oct. 1, 2011
  9. Liz McIntyre. Overachiever's Drug Culture.GARNET & BLACK - STUDENT MAGAZINE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA. 23 March 2011. Accessed Oct. 1, 2011

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