Citing increasing levels of stress, depression and sexual pressure, many of these high achievers say they have considered suicide.
"These young people really represent a microcosm of what's going on in our society," said Paul Krouse, publisher of Who's Who Among American High School Students. The poll involved 3,370 students aged 16 to 18 who are at the top of their class, 98 per cent of whom intend to go to college.
Fifty-nine per cent say they think affirmative action for immigrants will hinder their chances of getting college places and jobs. More than half say they always feel under stress from crime, concerns about their economic futures and other issues. Thirty-one per cent say they often or always feel frustrated, 26 per cent say they often or always feel moody and 15 per cent say they often or always are depressed. More than a quarter say they have considered suicide, and 4 per cent report that they have tried to take their own lives.
"Much like adults, today's teens have a lot weighing on their minds: affording college, crime and drugs, sexual violence, their economic futures, not to mention their family life," said Mr Krouse.
Three-quarters of these students say they have resorted to cheating at school work to get ahead, and more than two-thirds say cheating "didn't seem like a big deal". Nine out of 10 say cheating is common at their schools.
But while trust in teachers, clergy and government leaders has declined, more than 80 per cent of students say they have confidence in their parents.