There’s huge competition between high school students to gain admission to Ivy League colleges in the US. Year on year, the number of applications rise whilst acceptance rates often fall. Even for young people enrolled at prestigious schools, it’s incredibly difficult to get onto the course you want to study at your preferred institution. Race and socio-economic background still remain two of the most important factors in order to achieve success.

Lowell High School is the best public high school in San Francisco. As a selective institution, just getting in is a feat in itself. This automatically puts pressure on coeds who are only too aware how fierce the competition is to get into their dream college. The largely Asian-American student body knows that their future job prospects are largely dependent on their exam results. Try Harder! follows a group from the senior year as they strive for academic attainment.

Try Harder! is a lively portrait of a personable group of students whose sole focus is on getting accepted into a top university. Even though their lives might be in the balance, Debbie Lum keeps things light and airy. Still, it’s sad to think that these intelligent and bright teenagers stake so much on their grades. Still, ultimately, it’s a hopeful film. As Try Harder! suggests, there’s a lot more to life than simply study.

Try Harder! screened at Sundance Film Festival.