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During on campus recruitment, Penn student athletes have to find the ultimate balance of academics, athletics and job searching in one of the most competitive school environments.

Credit: Zach Sheldon

"Work hard, play hard" takes on a whole different meaning for some Penn student-athletes searching for jobs in the fall.

With both athletics practices and on-campus recruiting (OCR) presentations often being scheduled for the evening to accommodate course-schedules and traveling job-recruiters, many in-season athletes struggle to balance a commitment to their teams with a desire to secure corporate internships and jobs.

“It’s really tough, especially with the golf, because all of the [recruiting] sessions are during the evening, and we’re practicing through those sessions,” College junior and men’s golfer Josh Goldenberg said. “So I’ve been able to go to very few info sessions.”

Even for teams with practice schedules that don’t create direct conflicts, the demands of a season often leave athletes feeling like they have little time to search for jobs. Even though the NCAA limits in-season athletes to 20 hours of athletic activity per week, travel and individual conditioning and recovery can increase the total time commitment even further.

“[After practice] you have to get treatment, because you feel like crap all day, but you know, 2:00 to 6:00, it’s just kind of like, alright, switch off school and switch on football,” Wharton junior and football offensive lineman Tommy Dennis said. “And then like Saturdays in the morning, you don’t have football, but you’re getting ready, you’re on the bus, and you can’t worry about jobs, homework or anything, so you got to get it done throughout the week."

Dennis also discussed how not having priority course registration can make it very difficult to fit required classes into his schedule.

“Pretty much it’s you can have class up until 2:00 and then you can have starting at 6:30, so it’s tough,” he said. “They squeeze all the good ones right in the middle. Everyone has work, everyone has classes and everything, but then we just have another four hour block, and then we have meetings and everything, so it’s tough to balance it." 

To help ease the time-management challenges in-season athletes face, both Goldenberg and Dennis pointed out that Penn does make some efforts to accommodate athletes’ schedules.

“During fall break, we had to stay here because we had practice and a game, so they set up a career fair, just a couple alumni, either ex-alumni or supporters of the football [team], who were in the area,” Dennis said. “It was just really helpful, because we had to be here anyway, so might as well get some good looks out of it.”

“Bringing in companies to meet with athletes and athletes alone is something the school is definitely starting to do,” Goldenberg added. 

Even with the athlete-only sessions, Patricia Rose, Penn’s Director of Career Services, acknowledged that successfully balancing athletics and job-searching can require a lot of initiative and planning ahead.

“So it’s a problem that has a solution, but the solution typically involves doing advanced planning and coming in and working with us,” Rose said.

Rose also suggested that despite all the scheduling challenges, athletes have some clear advantages when it comes to the job-search.

“Being a student at Penn, there is a tremendous alumni network. Being a student-athlete at Penn, you have access to the Penn network, but you also have access to an athletic network,” Rose said. 

Rose also added that athletes develop many of the tools that athletes are most interested in.

“In most cases the first thing they [employers] say is, ‘we’re really looking for people who can work as part of a team.’ And student-athletes can do that—they have demonstrated that they can do that,” Rose explained.

While Rose thought that overall, the advantages of being an athlete in the job-search outweighed the disadvantages, Goldenberg and Dennis were less sure.

“It has its ups and downs. The downs are clear,” Goldenberg said. “But there’s the positive in the sense that...I’m able to make an introduction that shows my commitment to the sport and shows how dedicated I am.”

“Obviously you need to have something going into the summer so you value it, you work, and then if you have to stay up late every couple nights, then that’s what you got to do,” Dennis said.