The Work Hard Play Hard Culture: How to Tackle It

At an Ivy League school, hard work is expected and commonplace, considering the type of student that usually attends, but the college party culture adds an entirely different element to campus culture. In a place where stress levels are high and nightlife is easily accessible, a “Work Hard, Play Hard” environment becomes prominent and easily overwhelming. Living on your own and making your own decisions can make balancing in your life a challenge; you can find yourself cramming in the library starting on Sunday, and by Wednesday or Thursday, already wanting to decompress and start the weekend. It is very easy to fall into this toxic cycle, but it is important to recognize the ways to break from it.

  1. 1. Make More Time for Yourself

    If you feel like your weeks are starting to become a mix of just two environments - the library and the party scene, start to take time away from both and do more things for yourself. Whether that means skipping out on a party to watch a movie you’ve been looking forward to, or planning  a Sunday where you aren’t studying and are instead stepping back and doing things that you enjoy, will make your weeks feel less nonstop and stressful. Making time in your day to work out, make a good meal, call your mom, and leaving time at night to decompress before you go to bed is possible if you make it a priority. Sometimes putting yourself first is more important than anything else!

  2. 2. Spend Time with Your Friends Outside of the Party Scene

    Friends are crucial to the college experience, and it’s important to also spend time with them outside of the party scene. Making connections with the right people outside of parties nurtures  stronger relationships. Day-to-day activities are more enjoyable when you’re with people that make you happy. Bringing a friend along to do work, get lunch, or work out can take some pressure off of your daily activities. Plan nights in with friends, and surround yourself with people that are maintaining balance in their lives. Being with people who are also taking time to take care of themselves makes it easier for you to do so as well.

  3. 3. Take it in Doses

    It is normal to want to do everything, especially when you first start college, but this can become overwhelming (though, depending on who you are, it may not). Everyone is different, so it’s important to find the balance that works for you. You know yourself best and what you need in the moment.

    Experiencing the college experience is something you should take advantage of, but taking one night or one weekend off when you feel like you need to will not affect much in the grand scheme of things - you have four years to go out!

The “Work Hard, Play Hard” culture is one that is challenging and considered the norm in high-level universities like Penn; sometimes, it seems like the best way to destress is to go out. While working hard is important and socializing is necessary, this polarized dynamic can be dangerous. The two extremes of this lifestyle can be alleviated in simple ways, such as only working until 9 p.m., or socializing by watching a movie with friends rather than going to a party. At times when the high stakes environment  feels cutthroat or overwhelming, know that there are alternatives. You are not alone in feeling this way, and it is easier to break this cycle than you may think.