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Developing a Strong Work Ethic in College 

By Emmarie May M. Bonganciso | February 8, 2022

The time has come. The second semester greets us like a distant relative staying over so we have no choice but to get on our feet and clean the house down to the brim. Are you ready for your Tita Second-Sem? In many ways, it does feel like that, doesn’t it? Sometimes, we earnestly put in our best efforts to measure up to the standard, to gain approval and praise. Other times, we just show up to survive. 

But believe it or not, there’s a silver lining in such storms that we meet head-on. Adversities often build character. As silver is refined over heat time and time again, so it is with ourselves. We forfeit the chance of refinement when we are not willing to rise up to what is beyond our comfort, even when it simply means we’re willing to try and rise up to the challenge. Everyone has at least some kind of system for dealing with different obstacles in life whether it be in the academic realm or not. But not all of them are sustainable, healthy, or effective. 

One of the key differences, as many would say, between high school and college is the degree of independence and freedom that is given at a cost. What is the cost? Accountability. With the freedom that we have, we’re held accountable for how we structure the ordinary, daily grind to impact the ultimate resolutions. And this is how we get the ball rolling to come up with our own work ethic. 

So what is a work ethic? A work ethic is essentially a set of standards of behavior and beliefs regarding what is and isn’t acceptable to do at work. A strong work ethic is an attitude that a person applies to whatever work they have to show a high level of passion. In short, it’s how you show you care. But this is not just a word that magically pops up into the sky when we enter the workforce. It’s something that evolves as we carry on with life from childhood to adulthood. So how do you develop a strong work ethic? Here are three key points to help get you started. 

Determine your non-negotiables. 

Developing a good work ethic is all about building and/or choosing by what standard you are to operate. It’s important to carefully think about the things that you believe are fundamental to what makes someone a splendid person to work with. Upon taking a certain responsibility for example, such as in an academic organization, acknowledge the certain weight of expectations laid out for you to assume. But aside from that, consider that you will have to actively discern the limits of your skills, time, and health. What do you choose to prioritize? And how far are you willing to go? How much are you willing to give? In the same manner, you have to align your expectations for your colleagues according to whatever standard you hold. You can’t do all this if you don’t even know what you can and cannot stand for.

It’s not just behavior modification. It’s a part of a certain lifestyle. 

There is a difference between holding a strong work ethic and being a workaholic. The latter depicts a more unhealthy fixation on one’s work or tasks. The former focuses on establishing healthy and effective boundaries between your work or school life and your personal life outside it. A good work ethic is not just about behavior modification but lies in maintaining a lifestyle with a secured ethical and moral standard. Studying for multiple hours in a day may be effective in the sense that you aced the test, but if you fail to address the fact that you struggle with self-control and discipline when it’s time to put down your phone and study, you’re not investing in yourself as much as you could have. You have to aim for some holistic change if you want these principles to stick with you when you start working. 

Lastly, you are not on an island. 

This is a concept that you will hear from a lot of people who have already graduated from college. Many will tell you about the significance of having a good, reliable set of friends. This doesn’t just apply to high school or college but it’s an idea that is truly golden in everyday life. When in college, fending only for yourself and treating everybody as competition is not always the wisest move. This isolates you, pushing you further from any helpful tips, clever life hacks, or even plain fun for that matter. Learning to work with people and get people is an art and a valuable asset in the university and beyond. You won’t sharpen that when you’re boxed in, all by yourself. 

A strong work ethic is not solely characterized by a rigid and grim rulebook. It doesn’t mean that you drain out all sense of enjoyment. A strong work ethic will help lead you to realize that work can be a pleasure and a blessing. And because it is so, it must be regulated and well thought out. Work in its prime essence is a good thing, because work brings progress, feeds mouths, and keeps us alive. So whether it’s between juggling student organizations, sports, and academics, or enduring through the youthful dilemmas of a broke college student, start building a good work ethic now. Determine what matters to you, live mindfully, and know that you are not alone. 


Valamis. (2022, January 17). Work Ethic: How to Develop Strong Ethics | Examples [2022]. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from 


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