Increasingly, current college students and recent grads boast padded resumes filled with two or more internships, clubs, leadership positions, sports, extracurriculars, jobs and experiences that exceed the expectations of previous generations of students. Doing more, they want more to stand out in job applications where, thanks to the internet, thousands of other high achievers are clamoring for the same opportunity. And, after a long day of working and running around campus, these students are rewarded with less than the suggested 7 to 9 hours of sleep, an increased chance of burnout and a constant question burning in their mind: am I doing enough?
“Hustle culture” at college is a major driving force behind this, teaching students that success equates to nonstop productivity: if you aren’t constantly working for your “dream,” you are behind. This mentality preys on fear of failure — a natural feeling for many college students as they transition into adulthood — making work appear as a necessity and creating crushing guilt whenever “non-productive” activities are done instead.
The idea that “hustling” is the key to success has been force fed to students for quite a while now. At least 35% of “entry-level” jobs on LinkedIn alone ask for 2 to 3 years of experience from their applicants, requiring students to start working almost as soon as their arrival to college if they want a job post-graduation. But in order to get jobs and internships, they also have to stand out from other applicants with a high GPA, impressive extracurriculars, multiple minors or other awards and accolades — all of which are time–consuming activities. Balancing these factors for success alongside basic needs and duties is virtually impossible, but when you are told that this is the expectation, it is easy for students to fall victim to this mentality.
It also doesn’t help that these ideas are romanticized in the media that students consume during their free time. Influencers, peers and celebrities post constantly about their nonstop work ethics or how they effortlessly balance all responsibilities and then some — boasting hashtags like #riseandgrind or #sleepisfortheweak. The whole concept of LinkedIn is built on celebrating your accomplishments and connecting with others, but it’s too easy to fall down a rabbit hole of comparing yourself to them: diminishing your self-worth and inspiring you to take on more activities just to keep up. There’s a certain sense of competition and animosity derived from hustle culture, which is a destructive mentality for a college campus and for students themselves.
Hustling overall blurs the line between productivity and overworking, and if you don’t learn your limits, you are going to burn out fast. In addition to a lack of sleep, an unequal work-life balance notoriously decreases the mental well-being of students. Stress, anxiety and depression are all symptoms of this issue, which can develop further into physical problems: weight loss, headaches and chest pain, to name a few. Ironically, these problems impact a student’s success in class and extracurriculars — the very thing they were sacrificing their health for. It’s a vicious cycle: guilt of underperforming, overworking oneself, burning out and repeat.
Working hard for one’s dreams is not inherently bad. In fact, striving to be your best self is admirable, and recently, college students have been able to achieve an impressive amount of success. It’s also fine to enjoy having a busy schedule; I, personally, appreciate keeping myself busy. However, overlooking the culture surrounding this level of achievement is detrimental to the culture of college. I have witnessed too many students drastically ignore their physical and mental needs. Reestablishing a line between productivity and overworking will be key in helping students develop work-life boundaries. Students are more than a resume, and they deserve time to just be college students.