Summer Scholar Puts Work Myths to the Test

Thursday, August 30, 2018

by Katie Smith '15

“You hear all the time that hard work is the key to success,” says Nathan Vrabel ’20, an accounting major. “I wanted to put that to the test.”

Vrabel, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, spent his summer studying college students’ work habits for the Summer Scholars Program. This is his second year in the program under the mentorship of Joseph Larkin, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of accounting.

Vrabel administered the Work Addiction Risk Test (WART), a 25-question survey of a person’s work tendencies, to 102 freshman business students. Out of a potential 100 total points, scores between 67 and 100 were rated “highly workaholic”; between 57 and 66 were rated “moderately workaholic”; and 56 and below were rated “normal.”

According to Vrabel, a person who scores in the “highly workaholic” category would exhibit compulsive tendencies, need for control, impaired communication, self-absorption, inability to delegate and low self-worth — “arguably tendencies that can make work more difficult,” he says.

Early trends reveal roughly 50 percent of polled students scored in the normal range; 20 percent were highly workaholic. Vrabel also found that females scored marginally higher than males. When taking students’ standardized test scores into consideration, he found that the students who scored the highest on the ACT (34-36 range) were categorized as moderate workaholics.

“It’s encouraging to see that about half of the students score in the normal range,” says Vrabel. “While it is a difficult transition to college, students may be susceptible to either overworking due the rigorous workload, or just throwing in the towel and feeling overwhelmed. It’s nice to see that this number of students fairs somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.”

Vrabel hopes to continue his research by expanding his student pool to include a wider range of class years and disciplines.

“It’s easy to say you have a good work-life balance,” says Vrabel, who took the test himself and scored in the highest category, “but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Learning so much about the adverse effects of work addiction has definitely caused me to reflect on my own life.”

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