Duke students continued an age-old tradition this past week as thousands of undergrads hunkered down for the commencement of the 17th biannual Busyness and Stress (B.S.) Competition.

The cut-throat game, which challenges students to seem busier and more stressed than their peers, has long been a favorite of Duke students, dating back years to dorm rooms, lab basements, and library cubicles. Appearing constantly occupied and aggressively worried about coursework, extracurriculars, and social life is at the heart of the B.S. image.

Three seniors formalized the game several years ago, striving to “build more community around Duke students’ B.S.” Ever since, the Competition has brought students together and tested them in myriad ways—ultimately asking, who’s the B.S. master?

Although the time frame of unofficial games varies (with some students competing for four years straight), the official Competition spans three weeks during the fall and spring semesters, during which students are “constantly considered in-game” and must “ceaselessly” put on their most aggressive Busyness and Stress image.

Each day, judges vote on the most “B.S.-qualified” contestants. Those who don’t make the cut are immediately eliminated—with the stakes getting higher each round. This cut-throat sense of competition and impending failure, said one organizer, “really pushes students” to do their best. “We find that even though students might underestimate just how much B.S. they’re capable of, it’s often far more than they think—they just need a little feeling of inadequacy!”

Judges emphasize that no quantitative metrics, such as number of clubs or hours of homework, are recorded during the game—since it’s “not about understanding how busy they actually are.” Instead, this year’s head judge said, it’s about “the general vibe” of the contestant. “The kind of B.S. we look for in Duke students isn’t that tangible stuff on paper, like clubs or jobs or research or whatever, but really just, like, the ambiance—how success feels around them.”

Despite there being no single, defined path to victory, according to a former judge, there are “definitely clear B.S. strategies among previous winners.” Last semester’s champion, for instance, blended “constant complaints about grades” and “pointlessly late weeknights” with social media “grandstanding” and a “frantic-looking walk” to come across as the busiest and most-stressed student of the semester. The junior was actually moved to tears when he was announced the winner, then saying, “it almost makes all the misery worth it.”

Another previous victor leveraged subtle signaling to out-B.S. her peers. “I remember she always wore workout clothes,” recalled one alumna who remembered the “legendary” competition round. “And she would always leave mixers early to finish her problem set,” she said, which was an “impressive” touch. “And then there was the color-coded agenda, the textbooks she would hulk around—it all left such an impression.” The alumna added that she “really admired” the student’s commitment to her lack thereof.

Other assorted success tactics include exercising at bizarre hours, cancelling plans with friends to “study,” shoveling in food while walking, and blowing off dates because “it’s just been really busy lately.” Alongside this, though, the Competition’s creators noted that physical appearance should in no way suffer – the best competitors “find ways to still look great during the day, but also rock that ‘I’ve-been-in-Perk-for-six-hours’ sweatpants look come 2 A.M.”

Ultimately, only one undergraduate can walk away victorious—the true master of B.S., the recipient of an enormous participation ribbon and the true admiration of their anxious peers.

Monday Monday was unable to reach non-B.S.-participants for comment – they were too busy actually working.