First is the worst, second is the best… or is it?



Often, students receive homework help and studying advice from their older siblings. This can be seen as an advantage that students without older siblings miss out on.

Coming into high school is an anxiety-inducing experience for almost everyone. The unknown can be terrifying, and overdramatized TV shows only amplify freshman fears. But, what if the next four years weren’t so formidable? Some think this is often the reality for students with older siblings. For example, Gowtham Pradeep (9) has an older sister whom he was able to observe through her four years of high school. He found himself knowing things that he thought were just common knowledge, but they ended up being things he could attribute to having an older sibling. 

“Going into high school, I felt like I knew a lot of things that a lot of people in my grade didn’t know because they didn’t have older siblings,” Pradeep said. “I just assumed it was basic knowledge, for example, AP classes, what a GPA was, applying to colleges … things like that.” 

However, the never-ending comparisons that siblings endure apply to academics as well. Having an older brother or sister, especially a high achieving one, can place unwanted expectations on students. This pressure may be from teachers, parents or even an internal desire to do as well or  better than the older sibling. Israel Avila (9) has an older sister, Leslie Avila (12), who he found himself having to live up to. 

“She’s taking AP classes, so [my parents] want me to take some also,” Avila said. “Personally, I didn’t really [like] the idea of taking AP classes because it’s not really my style. I’m not really the working type. But, I am taking the same classes that she did and my goal is to challenge myself.”

In Avila’s case, and for many other students, this pressure can also serve as motivation. Students without older siblings often have to pave their own way through high school and set their own goals, which can be a daunting task. With standards already set, younger siblings have their work laid out for them and can choose whether or not to follow in their sibling’s footsteps. 

“I felt like I knew how high school was going to go –  I have actual plans on what to do,” Josh Blackwell (12) said. “So, I was like ‘I already know how to handle this whole thing.’”

Additionally, when taking classes an older sibling has already taken, a student already has second-hand experience on what that class is like. More often than not, they will receive help from their in-house “tutor.”

“My sister and I get along really well [and] when it comes to academics, she’s helped me a lot with school work,” Pradeep said. “I was taking a chemistry course online and I didn’t really understand a lot of it, so she would sit there and help me through the problems I didn’t understand.” 

Furthermore, the teacher of that class has an impression of the student based on what their sibling was like. While this is dependent on what the older sibling was like in that class, majority of the time it serves as a major advantage that students without older brothers or sisters do not have. Blackwell, another student with high-achieving sisters, hasn’t minded teachers acknowledging them in class. 

“I felt proud, in part because I also did well, but also because it’s great that she set a good example so the teachers would be nicer to me,” Blackwell said. “It’s like an in-between because I have an advantage in that people will be nicer to me, but [there’s] a disadvantage because I’m compared a lot and so [their] expectations could be set high.”

As with everything, having an older sibling who has gone through the whole high school process before has its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, a student receives a cheat sheet for high school. But, with that comes expectations and standards. 

“There’s certain expectations that people set, like [compared] to your siblings and if you don’t reach those expectations, people are going to think you’re less than them,” Avila said. “[My sister] has pretty high expectations for me… she wants me to have fun and enjoy high school.”