Edit desk: Work hard, play hard (results may vary)


Rebecca Wilkin

“Work hard, play hard.”

Alternatively, the widely accepted notion that any student can maintain both a successful academic career and a thriving social life.

We’ve all heard it. Most of us have endorsed it. Few of us can deny that it’s Lehigh’s unofficial motto.

Our school is known for its academic reputation and it consistently ranks among the best colleges in the nation. What’s more, Lehigh typically tops party school lists — The Princeton Review ranked Lehigh as the nation’s No. 4 party school in 2017, beating out Bucknell, Colgate and Syracuse.

In 2016, Business Insider ranked Lehigh No. 6 on a list of the 30 most intense colleges in the country. To determine a school’s intensity, the site combines rankings for highest-quality academics, smartest students, best Greek life colleges and top party schools.

Most Lehigh students take pride in the fact that our university attracts students who emanate the “work hard, play hard” attitude.

But the popularity of this mantra leads us to believe that a balance of work and play is not just possible, but certainly achievable — even easily obtained.

And that’s the problem. A work-play balance is definitely necessary, but at what point are we fooling ourselves?

Sleeping four or five hours a night and fueling our bodies with caffeine until we can pump them with alcohol every night should not be considered a healthy balance.

I’m sure some Lehigh students can easily maintain a 3.7 GPA and party three or four nights a week, but from personal experience and speaking with friends, it’s just not that easy.

I’m not saying the “work hard, play hard” mentality itself is dangerous. Rather, the danger is the perpetuation of the idea that working hard and playing hard can be attained on a regular basis without sacrifices.

Attending Lehigh and taking rigorous courses is often seen as the bare minimum.

Most students take pride in being involved on campus. After class, we drown ourselves in extracurricular activities: work study positions, chapter meetings, athletic practices, band rehearsals, research opportunities, club events — the list goes on.

Overcommitment, self-induced pressure and the fear of “not doing enough” is often alleviated with excessive drinking and drug use — in other words, “playing hard” — that mask our issues until our stress devours us.

To achieve what most Lehigh students would consider “balance,” they compromise the one thing that matters most: their mental health.

The university does a good job of making us aware that we have alternative options to “playing hard:” CHOICE housing, Lehigh After Dark events and University Production concerts.

But what about alternatives to “working hard?”

The root of the problem is that we fail to recognize that working hard can be just as detrimental to our health as playing hard. We don’t address alternatives to these issues in the same way.

Sure, Lehigh provides a host of options for us to use to alleviate stress, from meditation groups to counseling and psychological services. But it’s taboo to even hear students talk about consulting these services.

The administration can only do so much.

As students, we need to recognize that it’s up to us to stop placing this pressure on each other. Many of us are natural overachievers and we came to Lehigh already predisposed with this attitude. It’s proven that a high correlation between attraction to accomplishment and attraction to leisure exists — the highly-motivated individuals who are more inclined to “work hard” are also the most likely individuals to “play hard.” We continue to endorse this attitude throughout our time at college.

Directly or indirectly, we feel constant pressure from peers to achieve high academic and social standards.

We start to believe that it’s acceptable to overload ourselves with these academic and social commitments simply because “everyone else is doing it.”

However, what most of us really need is the occasional confirmation that it’s OK to stay in on a Friday. It’s OK to drop a club or class if the stress gets too much.

We don’t have to discard “work hard, play hard.”

But we have to stop endorsing the notion that “work hard, play hard” doesn’t have its own serious consequences.

Rebecca Wilkin, ’18, is a managing editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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