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Columnist headcut photos Credit: Hayley Brooks and Ali Kokot , Amanda Suarez

At Penn, we pride ourselves on our defining “work hard, play hard” mentality. It’s why many of us came. We were the cool but smart kids in high school, often straddling one friend group by day, another by night.

On Thursday nights, kids bust their butts in Van Pelt’s basement until around 11, when they pack up on cue and head home to change for Smoke’s. Our work is extreme, our play is extreme, but they’re always separated.

This life of opposing worlds generates a lot of confusion for a 20-year-old.

Am I getting rowdy at a paint mixer or am I mingling with bankers after an information session? Can both of those personas exist in the same body? Maybe in this dual life, we impose expectations on ourselves that we’re not all ready to handle yet.

This dichotomy is most blatant when it comes to on-campus recruiting — where students who were partying five hours before sit down in suits, ready to take on the professional world. Or at least they think so.

While some can confidently don a suit at 20, others simply aren’t ready — and that’s okay. Though we deem our mantra to be a positive attribute, maybe it’s problematic. Why are we so insistent that there be a distinction between work and play and that both have to be so extreme?

For those who aren’t yet suited for a professional life, step one is to admit that, and step two is to strike a balance by pursuing a happy medium between your work and play.

Penn has a pre-professional aura that radiates outward from Huntsman, enveloping the rest of campus. This internal pressure, coupled with the external pressure from career-minded parents, can discourage students from seeking other opportunities, even if those opportunities might be a better fit than finance. There should be more support for students who want to spend their summer incorporating their play — or better put, their passions — into their work.

2012 Wharton graduate Tara Viswanathan, who ditched the suit for Stanford’s Management Science and Engineering Graduate Program, says it well: “There shouldn’t be a distinction. Work is play for me. I want whatever I do in life to be fun.”

Tara never did on-campus recruiting. She worked at a start-up incubator last summer, and hopes to build her own women’s lifestyle brand that “makes it easier and more fun for women to fit health and fitness into their already busy lives.” It’s what gets her up in the morning. It’s her dream.

Disclaimer: this is not to say that OCR doesn’t work for everyone. Let’s be clear, we’re not bashing the beast. If investment banking tickles your insides, that’s fantastic. But the notion that you’ve got to work extremely hard at a tedious, unrelenting job to make money, in order to have fun with that money, shouldn’t be what drives you to take the job.

We’d all be better off if we lived more blurred, moderate lives.

The implicit rule that the jobs with the most rigorous hours and the highest payroll post-graduation day are the best ones for all of us is simply not true. It’s scary to go off the uncharted road where companies don’t come to campus and scoop you up. Calling alumni, spamming listservs and making connections on your own can be a daunting and vulnerable experience.

But for those willing to go for it, it usually pays off. Last year, since none of the OCR options were appealing to us, we both cold called people to pursue our passions — Ali in food and Hayley in entertainment.

There are other opportunities within Penn that may be more stimulating than OCR to some. RealArts@Penn boasts internships with stipends at Rolling Stone and Viacom, while the Cinema Studies department now hosts their own internships with film directors and distribution companies and a cool five-grand boost attached. The Penn International Business Volunteers program sends students around the world to consult medical centers in Kazakhstan and sustainable fisheries in Costa Rica.

Because OCR comes to Penn, it’s easy to think that’s all there is. It might take a little work to find your fit, but who said playtime comes for free?

Ali Kokot and Hayley Brooks are College juniors from New York, N.Y. and Ft. Lauderdale, F.L. respectively. You can email them at or follow them at @haybethbrooks and @alikokot. “Think Twice” appears every Wednesday.

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