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Monday, Jun. 27, 2011

Starting the first week of Will's freshman year at a large state university, there was always a party going on. There were frat parties, tailgates, theme parties, and dances. Even within Will's dorm, some group was always having a good time--playing poker, watching movies, or just hanging out.

At first, Will enjoyed the social scene and getting to know people; he didn't see a problem with adjusting to the social atmosphere before really getting into the academics. But two months into college, he found himself behind in a couple of classes, and handing in work that he wasn't very proud of. He would promise himself to study, but then get sidetracked when one of his buddies dropped by his room and asked him to go out.

Will had come to college to prepare himself for a career in law, and he knew he needed to perform reasonably well to get into law school. But he also figured that college was supposed to the best time in his life, which it certainly wasn't going to be if all he did was study. What was the right balance? What difference would it make either way?

Some Interesting Facts and Resources

About 29 percent of incoming students chose their colleges based on the reputation of their "social activities."

Chronicle of Higher Education, 2003

Most guides recommend about 2 hours of study a week for each hour in the classroom. Generally this will work out to between 30 and 45 hours. But the National Survey of Student Engagement found that many students try to get by on far less. Of freshmen at four-year residential colleges, only 12 percent spent 26 hours or more preparing for class.

"A" students average 3.1 drinks per week
"B" students average 4.4 drinks per week
"C" students averages 5.6 drinks per week
"D" and "F" students average 9.5 drinks per week The Bacchus Network

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


Photo by mel_rowling available under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

Comments Comments

Alan Nguyen said on Jun 27, 2011
I guess first and foremost, we come to college for an education and I find that most students are able to find the right balance or mix of academic and social commitments. As one that takes academics seriously and is involved in quite a few activities on campus, I find that it is definitely possible to balance school commitments and having fun. One needs to be aware of their own capabilities and manage time well enough to be able to go out and have fun. There is also a need for responsibility and sometimes it does require some sacrificing in order to do well in a class or really understand materials. I think we are rather fortunate to go to a school like Santa Clara with all the opportunities that the school has to offer and we should be mindful of why we are here and not to throw away the gift. So I think it is definitely okay for Will to go out and have some fun, drink a little here and there, but be mindful of his Law School aspirations and find the right mix of college. Whether that be finding the right group of friends with the same mindset as him or spending a few extra hours studying every week. Because we all need to relax and have fun sometimes. That way Will can get the most from his time in college. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Cameron said on Jun 29, 2011
Cameron's Response I don't want to say partying is as important as studying, but Will is right: College is one of the best times of your life. To say that you should focus 100 percent on school for all four years is a little unrealistic. Regardless of whether or not you want to drink, it is important to find some time for a social life and friends. The people you meet in college may influence the rest of your life. Making connections and establishing relationships is at least as important for success in the real world as GPA and LSAT scores. Will's problem is balance, one that nearly every new freshman encounters in the first few months of school. It always takes a while to figure out, but eventually everyone finds his or her own system. I know some kids who go out four nights a week and pull straight As, and I know some who go out four nights a month and struggle to keep a B average. It really depends on your study habits, motivation, and time management skills. A good balance for me has been going out two nights (or days) per week, but always making sure to get my work done beforehand. Trust me, if you tell yourself you'll get it done later and go out instead, it will NOT get done. I learned this lesson the hard way, multiple times. I would say Will probably needs to do something similar. If he is consistent with his convictions, his friends will eventually get the picture and only bug him to go out on the weekends or whatever days Will has chosen. Obviously, as time goes on, Will can adjust his schedule to fit his own habits and abilities, but to start with, it's always a good idea to be conservative and work from there. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Deepti said on Jun 29, 2011
I can see why Will is having a hard time saying no to all the social activities going on around him. The freedom and possibilities in college make most new freshmen feel like kids in a candy shop. I agree that a social life is important, college being the first time people get to experience the real world. A social life, however, is not the be-all and end-all. College gives kids a taste of freedom, but it's also supposed to teach them responsibility. This doesn't seem to be the case with Will. Responsibility entails learning to take on hard work and balance commitments. Given the fact that his grades are plummeting and that he seems to find it impossible to say no to his friends, Will doesn't appear to be cultivating anything close to a sense of responsibility. He's cheating himself out of the experience of learning to be an adult, which is, in my mind, one of the main purposes of college. It's possible he's taken on too much academically, and that's why he's feeling overwhelmed. He could consider dropping a class or two to lighten the load. He should ask professors if they have suggestions for working more efficiently. I would suggest Will organize his schedule to make sure he is able to complete all his work. He should definitely pencil in time for a social life, but he should keep in mind that he's in college to learn. He should always have his work at least somewhat under control before going out. If college is one big party, as he seems to view it, it's a pretty expensive one. If Will doesn't take his classes seriously, he's wasting his own time and his parents' money. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Miriam said on Jun 30, 2011
I might as well come out with it: I was the kind of college student who listened to Shakespeare recordings for fun and thought there was nothing more exciting than a night at the opera. Come to think of it, I'm still that way. But even nerds such as myself had to learn in college how to balance what we liked to do and what we had to do. Beyond the question of balance, Will seems to have a problem setting boundaries with his friends. I remember how worried I was in my freshman year that if I turned down an invitation, I might miss something or I might be thought of as too serious. Both of those things may have happened, but ultimately, friendships have a kind of self-correcting mechanism. You attract and hang out with people who are ready to respect the choices you make. If Will really does want to go to law school, studying has to be one of those choices. - Like
Erick Chong said on Jun 30, 2011
Who has not indulged in some party taking? It would be hard not to say I have not partied like it was 1975, I mean common in human and we all are as well. The real problem lies when parting opposes your school duties. As a student one must realize what is best and make a decision. Two semesters before last, my party skills were so severe that it caused me to fail the semester thus making me realize all is good with moderation. Nowadays I avoid harsh social events for I try to avoid another catastrophe and because after so long of doing something, one gets bored of the monotonous routine. Thereby parting is not for me, however when the semester starts and ends i indulge in some friendly beer pong and what not. It is not till you learn and set your priorities straight to make you understand how to manage your time to be able to do what you need and what you please. It all is a learning process-trust me I know! - Like - 1 person likes this.
David DeCosse said on Jul 1, 2011
It's time to recover the "mean." I'm not referring to a sour-looking facial expression directed at an annoying friend. Nor am I referring to a mathematical concept akin to an "average" (though that's closer to what I'm getting at). Instead, I'm talking about bringing back the time-honored ethical concept called the "mean," made prominent by the Greeks millennia ago but of late fallen out of favor. The mean is the halfway point in our actions: The point Between excess and deficiency. For instance, courage is understood to be the mean between cowardice and foolhardiness. You're obviously not courageous if you remain frozen in fear. But you're also not courageous - and this is the harder point for us to get today - if you take genuinely foolish risks. Thinking more about the mean could especially help Will because college life is often a scene of extremes. Many students are getting their first strong whiffs of freedom away from the expectations of home. Why not party all night and blow off class in the morning? Or why not study all the time and leave socializing for the unserious? If we approached college from the start in terms of the mean, we'd see more quickly the emptiness of these extremes. A good life is, on the whole, a balanced life - a life according to the mean. Study hard and get your work done. And don't scrimp on the socializing either. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Jeremy Geist said on Jul 2, 2011
Will faces a couple of issues. The first is that he can't separate his social life from his academic lifewhenever he tries to study, someone invites him to some gathering or another. Furthermore, it's mentioned that "even in Will's dorm", the social scene is extremely pervasive. To solve this, Will can go to the library or some other area where the party scene is quieter. This should also solve the issue of not having enough time, as he will be able to produce better results in the same amount of time. The second issue is percieved versus actual lossevery time Will refuses to participate in a social event, he feels like he's losing some form of essential college experience. In order to combat this, Will has to make a paradigm shift and say, "I cannot cut this assignment in order to participateI would not have been able to be there in the first place." Work should become as essential as registering for classes. Finally, Will can still achieve an excellent social life by choosing more essential social events and building a work schedule around them. That way, he still gets to do whatever he wants to do while still getting work done. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Joykym dryden said on Jul 2, 2011
In order to find the balance you have to make a schedule that fits your needs. U you know youll be late to an early morning class dont schedule one unless you have no other options.. if you dont then plan ahead and know how many hours of sleep u need to run the next day then. Designate time for studying, cut of ur phone and let ppl kno u have a study time.. If you party make sure they are on the weekends.. stay above the influence.. - Like
Kalpith Ramamoorthi said on Jul 4, 2011
I agree with Jeremy. Will needs to find the balance between work and play. Everyone in college has had to go through what Will is going through, it is about setting aside some time for yourself other than studying. What helped me find balance was to make a list of things that I need to complete during the week. And plan all my social activities around that list. If I went out on Monday and didn't check anything off that list, I need to buckle down. On the other end, if I had been good and finished the things on the list early in the week I would have free time on friday or the weekend to spend some time with friends. "Work Hard but Play Harder!" What helped me balance out work with play was to make the most out of the free time given to me. That way, I could focus on work knowing that I had a fun time. - Like
Greg McComic said on Apr 5, 2013
I think that Will feels the need to be accepted into a new college and does things that normally would not do just to fit in with the crowd. This is similar to joining a fraternity. I think Aristotle's Golden Mean theory would describe Will's behavior in about a month as balancing back to the "norm" after him realizing the negative and dangers of drinking and partying. His grades and assignments had already began to decline and he felt in his heart he needed to do the right thing. Will graduated law school with honors therefore choosing the best decision. Greg McComic - Like
The Big Q said on Apr 5, 2013
Greg, thank you for your response! Your reference to Aristotle is very insightful. This case was posted two years ago (meaning that the contest has expired), but we post new cases like this every other week! Check out our latest one, "Can You Keep A Secret?," on the home page of the Big Q and comment for a chance to win $100 to Amazon! - Like
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Tags: drinking, partying