How To Balance A 'Work Hard, Play Hard' Lifestyle
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

How To Balance A 'Work Hard, Play Hard' Lifestyle

Caught in the crossfire between being socially relevant and academically afloat? You’re not alone.

How To Balance A 'Work Hard, Play Hard' Lifestyle

Throughout my first two years at the University of Pennsylvania, I’ve been confronted with challenges from two opposing fronts. The “Social Ivy” has lived up to its loaded name; the school’s cultural makeup teeters on the edge of two polarities. While most schools weigh considerably heavier on one side of the social-academic spectrum, Penn is smack dab in the middle. But Penn is not alone; plenty of other universities also provide students with both academic rigor and social stimulation. So, in the name of solidarity, for whomever this may resonate with, let’s try to understand the trademarks of this type of college culture, and how to survive in it.

Resisting the Polarities (or embracing them)

I want to preface this by saying, to each their own. Some people (like myself) love Penn for this dichotomy, while others resent it or struggle with it. For the latter, find your pole and stick to it; there is no harm in being a party girl with a work hard, party harder mentality, nor is it anything to be ashamed of if you fall into the work hard, play comes later category. Embracing your interests while disregarding peer pressure is incredibly difficult, so kudos to those of you who manage to do so. However, in my case, I want to thrive on both fronts. And what that means is resisting the polarities and maintaining a happy medium. The challenge in this is that as an ambitious student, I don’t want to simply coast; I want to excel in my classes. Figuring out how to excel academically while treating yourself to the social pleasures of an exciting and tempting college campus is much like forcing a toddler to eat dinner. You can have your chocolate fudge brownie, just finish that broccoli first.

Competitiveness, on two fronts

Students who strive for both academic and social success often share one characteristic in common: competitiveness. Competitiveness means that you crave an advantage over your fellow peers; academically, many of us are probably familiar with this. Just look at a professor who grades on a curve; do they know they’re pitting us against each other? The worse my fellow classmates do, the better I do, so why should I share my notes? Practicing this type of social behavior in the classroom is one thing we should all try to overcome. In my opinion, ambition is fine, great in fact, but getting ahead by suppressing the potential of others is unhealthy. Alternately, practicing this type of social behavior in social settings is both harder to recognize and harder to combat. When surrounded by people who seem to be striking the perfect balance (they aced the midterm and somehow managed to go out the weekend before), it is easy to compare yourself. The truth is, every person who strives to strike that balance faces difficulty; there is no perfect combination between late night dance parties and a lonely carrel in the library. Seek solidarity, not contrast; it’ll make studying easier when others are with you, resisting the loud music coming from a quarter-mile away. And for those who managed to make it to the source of said loud music, praise be upon them, because they either got their sh*t together faster than you did, or they’re going to fail next week's exam. You can be sure of one thing, though: their losses or gains are not your own. While comparing is unhealthy, it is almost impossible not to do. So worry about yourself, and by next week, maybe you’ll be the one dancing the night away while they spend a stellar evening in the dark depression of a silent library.

Smart Kids Can Get Down Too

This is probably my favorite thing about Penn: I am surrounded by people who challenge me in the classroom and interest me on the social scene. The same people who make thoughtful contributions to class discussions and open my mind to thinking in new ways might also be a part of a society that throws an outrageous late-night sweat-fest. Despite what some may think, those who attempt to strike the balance are rarely single-minded partygoers. On the contrary, they tend to be smart enough to balance two opposing pressures. Many are conscious of priorities, time-sensitive, and incredibly focused (with or without the aid of a little pill that starts with an “A”). Maintaining the balance requires a skill set exclusively gained when thrown into a culture of binaries, and I feel incredibly grateful to have (somewhat) acquired it. That being said, this loops into the competiveness anxieties that many of us face. Many students (myself included) procrastinate, have trouble focusing on a single task when so many other things are going on, and sometimes make the wrong choice (skip the day party to write a paper that isn’t really worth a large portion of your grade anyway, or spend a late night clubbing only to be greeted by a 9 a.m. presentation, in which you suffer a series of brain farts, puke in class, fake an anxiety attack, experience a real anxiety attack, or some other fun combination of humiliating indicators that no, you’re not hung over, you’re still drunk). Hey, nobody’s perfect—brace yourself for some epic f*ck-up’s.

Penn and other university cultures that tug their students in two directions are stressful, competitive, demanding, and exciting. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I don’t know where else I would learn how to strike the balance. Life often pulls you in opposing directions, and maintaining a positive attitude that yes, we can bake our cake and eat it too, will lead us to great achievements and great failures. But I’d rather risk experiencing both than neither.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Golden retriever sat on the sand with ocean in the background
Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore my dog. I am constantly talking about my love for her. I attribute many of my dog's amazing qualities to her breed. She is a purebred Golden Retriever, and because of this I am a self-proclaimed expert on why these are the best pets a family could have. Here are 11 reasons why Goldens are the undisputed best dog breed in the world.

Keep Reading...Show less

Boyfriend's Christmas Wishlist: 23 Best Gift Ideas for Her

Here are the gifts I would like to ask my boyfriend for to make this season unforgettable.

Young woman opening a Christmas gift

Recently, an article on Total Sorority Move called 23 Things My Boyfriend Better Not Get Me For Christmas, was going around on social media. I hope the author of this was kidding or using digital sarcasm, but I am still repulsed and shocked by the lack of appreciation throughout this article. I would like to represent the girlfriends out there who disagree with her standpoint -- the girlfriends who would be more than happy to receive any of these gifts from their boyfriends.

Keep Reading...Show less
Two teenage girls smiling

The 2000s were a time that many young adults today can look back on, joyfully reminisce and somewhat cringe at the trends and the fads that we all used to love and adore. Here's a list of things from the golden 2000s that will have one feeling nostalgic about all of those times.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

7 Types Of Students You Will Meet In College

You wish you could be #5, but you know you're probably a #6.

cool group of lazy college students in class

There are thousands of universities around the world, and each school boasts its own traditions and slogans. Some schools pride themselves on sports, while others emphasize their research facilities. While there is a myriad of differences among each and every school, there will always these seven types of students in class.

Keep Reading...Show less
woman in white tank top and orange jacket holding a bible
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Life is hard. There is no surprise there. It’s confusing and scary and hectic, but there are some amazing qualities, too. Sometimes you feel alone and don’t know what to do. School gets in the way of what you want to do or you’re dropping friends you thought you trusted. Everyone has their moments. Everyone has felt in the lowest place and couldn’t find the strength to get back up. But I want to help with that. Here are 10 Bible verses I hope will brighten your day, or at least make you feel stronger and happier.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments